4 Qualities of Truly Great Listeners

Embrace these and get the most out of the discussions you’re having with friends, colleagues, and family.

Black and white wall with words.

Instead, use active listening as a conversation tool with colleagues or family members to get the most out of the discussions you’re having.

Quality #1: They are teachable.

Self-Reflection: Are you open to new knowledge even to the point of criticism? Are you prepared to be told, "you’re wrong"? Can you suspend your defensiveness?Practice Point: When was the last time someone taught you something new or corrected your misunderstanding? Did you thank that person? If not, send them an email to show that gratitude. Better late than never!Practice Point: Have you ever intentionally or unintentionally tuned someone out who was trying to explain something to you? An apology can go a long way in signaling to someone that you have an open heart and mind. Why not use this as an opportunity to say, “I’m sorry” and give yourself a second chance to practice those active listening skills.

Quality #2: They are genuinely interested.

Ask yourself: Do you care about how you come out of a conversation — as the champion, the one who is ‘right’ or admired — or do you truly care about understanding someone else’s viewpoints? Be honest.

Self-Reflection: What behavior am I modeling with this conversation, and is it productive? If I’m having a hard time hearing this person out, what is it that might be making it difficult for me? Do I actually know what I care about or what I'm looking to get out of this conversation? If not, maybe I'm not in the right head-space to chat right now.Practice Point: If you’re feeling like you don’t have a genuine interest in a person or conversation, it may be because there isn’t a deeper relationship or trust there. Check yourself to see if you can sense any barriers that may be preventing open communication.Practice Point: If you strongly disagree with someone, it may be because you have different values. Instead of focusing on your differences, reframe the situation as a way to better understand what this particular person cares deeply about that informs their viewpoint(s).

Quality #3: They ask the right questions.

Self-Reflection: What types of questions do I typically ask? Do I have a tendency to ask leading questions? Am I comfortable if there's silence or do I feel the need to fill the gap with my own assumptions about their answers?Practice Point: If, like many people, you get a little uncomfortable when it’s silent, force yourself to count to 5 (slowly, in your head) after asking a question. Practice Point: If you have a tendency to interrupt, begin to raise your awareness of how that interferes in open dialogue by making a small tally mark on a notepad each time you interrupt. If you’re feeling particularly honest, at the beginning of the conversation you can let the listener know it’s something you’re working on improving.

Quality #4: They are responsive.

Self-Reflection: How is active listening reflected in your daily behaviors? Practice Point: Put a check-in on the calendar each month with the person or people you want to continue to learn from. A chat over coffee, tea, kombucha, or wine (even virtually) can do wonders for continued learning and evolution of relationships. It will help to build that genuine interest, trust, honesty and openness.

Here’s the thing. When listening is practiced on both sides, neither will be able to offer quick fixes — and at the end of the day, that’s a good thing. Thoughtful consideration of any issue takes time, but also results in both mutual and lasting understanding and learning moving forward.

Workplace Conflict Coach, Trainer, and Mediator. Owner of ONE EIGHTY. To learn more, visit oneeighty.io

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