You may have heard of John Maxwell as the leadership guru. His books, podcasts, blogs and other information are truly inspirational. He has a humble style of writing combined with plenty of wisdom that is shown through the depth of his thinking and analysis.
In many of his books, he has mentioned over and over again the importance of listening to learning. John not only believes that this is a critical skill for any effective leader but is also incredibly important for any relationship to thrive as a consultant or a service provider. This may not be rocket science to you but like me, do you listen more than you talk? If so, what would get you to change this approach?
I used to be very poor at this area in the past. Even though I have known the theory around talking less and listening more, I have never mastered it. One of the reasons was a need to look good by sharing my perceived knowledge and expertise with others. Part of it was inadequate tolerance of different perspectives. More importantly, it was because I did not truly understand the benefits of listening compared to talking.
I would like to share with you what I have learnt from John’s books about the advantages of listening. In summary, they are as follows:
- People in general including clients like to talk more than they listen. Use this to find out more about their problems, challenges and how you can assist them;
- You can learn more by listening. Over the last two months since actively focusing on listening more, I have picked up so much more. This includes understanding the real issue, the reasons why something is occurring and how I can learn from this;
- You get to ask more questions. By not talking more, I have focussed on asking more questions. More questions leads to more knowledge, more perspective and possible solutions;
- The conversation is not a contest. This is not only better to ensure a real exchange of issues but there is no pressure to think about what you are going to say next, rather the focus is more about understanding and listening; and
- You will have more chance of another meeting. The integration is much more pleasant for the other person for the reasons above. Your chance of future work and other opportunities has gone up significantly.
Two ears and one mouth are in proportion for a reason. Listen two thirds and speak one third. Any more than this and you are probably talking too much. Clients love their opinions to be acknowledged and listened to. Leverage this natural leaning and you will be a consultant that clients want to interact, work and build a long term relationship with.