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Listening Tests Your Self-Discipline and Leadership Potential

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Listening is a strategic communication tactic. When you are not prepared to listen strategically, you can fail yourself and the other people in the room.

Strategic listening requires one skill first and foremost. You need self-discipline. You must give your complete attention to the speaker. Avoid doing anything that gives the impression that you are simply waiting to reply. And, when you do respond, make every syllable count. Bad news or good news, your response reveals how much self-management, and thus how much leadership potential you possess.

Here are the last three of the 6 listening strategies, which I started in my prior post.

De-escalation Listening
Strategic listening is key when you’re stuck with a temperamental person who is light on impulse control. Maybe you actually did something that irritated them, and then again, maybe someone in their household ate the last bowl of Cheerios. It doesn’t matter. The temperamental person is not about solving anything. In short, they just want an audience for their temper tantrum. Against all the advice you will get from listening gurus: do NOT use words to reflect back what you heard. I recommend you maintain solid eye contact, and only use sounds in response. Start with vowel sounds: ahhh, ohhh, and ooo. And when they run out of gas, switch to consonants: hmmm. Finish them off with a firm nod of your head. You will find when you withhold words; these dirigibles deflate and waft away.

Misery-Interrupt Listening
A surprising number of people are not emotionally centered at various parts of the day, or in response to a variety of situations. We all have old “tapes” in our head that frequently play the kind of angry self-talk gangstas use in a war of words against their enemies. Assess whether you are listening to a fair, objective assessment of a situation, or if it’s the speaker’s own descant relaying depression, low self-esteem, or fear. If someone is mired in personal misery rather than reality, there’s only one response: compassion. If there’s a desk between you, come around the other side. Politely acknowledge their pain. For example, say, “Sounds like a lot is going on.” Then, normalize, so they keep their dignity. For example, say, “Almost everyone has this kind of thing happen from time to time.” Follow that with some hope, so they keep their sanity. For example, say, “I know you can figure this out.”

Joyful Noise Listening
Every so often someone scores a win, and wants to retell the story. I hope you are in this situation really often, both as a speaker and a listener. As the receiver of a triumphant tale, do not relate back your own successes – even if you’ve done the same thing and your experience is totally relevant, identical or even bigger and better (for goodness sake, don’t talk about that). Instead, be a great audience. Listen to the joyful noise coming at you, and smile. Listen carefully, and echo back the key points framed as questions. For example, “You didn’t get a call back until one minute before the end of the day, on the last day the deal could be done?” or “And then you slam dunked the deal, in that last minute?” Clap your hands, and if the flu isn’t going around: give a fist pump. If the flu is going around, holler: “Air five!” and pretend you’re slapping palms.

Would you like to have all six listening strategies to use for your business or career goals? Email me at Nance@NanceRosen.com. Subject line: Listening

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