Steven Covey taught us to “seek first to understand, then be understood.” Most leadership courses include some version of the advice: “when someone else is talking, show them the respect of listening, put yourself in their shoes and try to understand where they are coming from, before you start formulating your response.”
The benefits of being a good listener are many. It increases your approach-ability, builds your empathy, and broadens your perspective to name just a few things. In my experience, being a good listener also makes you seem smarter than you really are. I get a laugh out of it when I listen actively and emphatically to someone on an issue, they solve it for themselves, and they thank me for helping them solve the problem. All I did was listen and encourage them and they think I am a genius!
Despite the benefits, I still slip up from time to time and do what all of us humans seem wired to do. I don’t listen enough, I feel compelled to “show up and throw up”, and so I don’t get the benefits described above. I am so busy trying to push my agenda, I forget to listen properly.
Recently, I asked my business partner Terry a question. He started replying and, true to form, I started talking before he was done. His response – with a smile – was one of his famous one-liners and it has stayed with me ever since: “excuse me for talking while you were interrupting.” I am a sucker for great one-liners and they often stick in my head. This one will for a very long time.
I’ve started using the same playful one-liner when people interrupt me. I figure I’m doing them a favour. If they simply listen, they, too, can be a genius!