Everything is built on relationships: from business partnerships to life-long friendships. It’s no surprise that people who are great at relating to others tend to be more successful in life. We are all capable of showing interest in another person, in asking questions, and listening for the answers without interruption. However, many of us use this skill only when we are after something. We do our best when we are trying to close a deal with an important new client or to impress a potential new partner.
The best among us have made genuinely listening to others their second nature. They don’t have an on-off switch for caring, empathy, and showing respect. It’s always on. So why don’t the rest of us follow the same practice?
Here is a simple exercise to test your listening skills. Close your eyes and slowly count to 50. Don’t let any other thoughts intrude your mind as you concentrate on maintaining the count. It is simple but not easy, and many people can’t do it. They get distracted by thoughts about work or what they will have for dinner. Now, think about it this way: if focusing for 50 seconds is a challenge, how will you be able to listen long and patiently to another person?
This little exercise exposes a weakness – that it’s easy to get distracted. Practice listening without distraction by making it your goal to treat the other person as if he or she is the only one in the room. To improve your practice, apply these six behavioral skills:
- Listen. Don’t interrupt.
- Don’t say “I knew that,” “no” or “but.”
- Neither agree nor disagree with the other person.
- If you receive praise, just say “thank you.”
- Don’t let your eyes wander elsewhere while the other person is talking.
- Ask intelligent questions that move the conversation forward.
Now, test and consider your experience. Did you feel you more present and connected with the other person? Once you focus on letting your counterpart feel important, you will uncover a paradox: that the more you subdue your own desire to shine, the more you will shine in the other person’s eyes. Keep practicing, and soon making a lasting positive impression on the people you meet will become an invaluable habit.
Life is Good
Will Linssen & Marshall Goldsmith
With the upcoming start of a new year, this is an exciting and hopeful time to set resolutions. It’s when we feel motivated to change. We set out to get in shape, to be a better leader, a kinder human being. We tell ourselves, “Now is the time to make it happen!”
However, after a few weeks, it’s clear that many goal setters don’t become goal achievers. Where did we get the idea that getting in shape would be easy? How could we think that improving our leadership style would have no challenges? When did we start believing that getting cut off while driving would have no effect on our mood? We are surprised and discouraged when we hit the first bump in the road. As soon as working towards our goal turns out to be hard work, we start to second guess ourselves.
To prime ourselves for success, we need to be aware of and prepare for the four major challenges that we tend to underestimate:
- Time: We notice that it’s taking much longer to see results than we anticipated. We become impatient. Finding the motivation to work on our new goal gets tougher.
- Effort: Achieving our goal turns out to be a lot harder than we thought it would be. We are tired from our already busy lives and question if our new goal is worth pursuing.
- Competing goals: We get distracted by another urgent obligation that needs immediate attention. Our original goal is pushed to the side – and sometimes forgotten.
- Maintenance: After achieving our goal, we fall back into old habits that forced us to set the goal in the first place. Now we have to start over again and that discourages us.
Infomercials and pundits attempt to convince us that there is a “quick and easy” solution for everything. That results will be “immediate.” Here is the truth: Anything meaningful and worthwhile involves hard work and takes time. No magic formula or product will make you a better leader, professional, or person. Only you can do it, with perseverance and focus.
If you are willing to put in the hours, to stick with new behavior, and to get back on track when you slip up, then you will see incredible results in your life. Successful people don’t let setbacks stop them from achieving their goals – they keep pushing forward, day by day, until they succeed.
May you see even greater success in 2019.
Happy New Year!
Life is Good
Will Linssen & Marshall Goldsmith