When we think of holding engaging, powerful conversations, the first thing that comes to mind is mastering the art of persuasive speaking. While there is magic in persuasion, one of the most powerful tools of a leader is the ability to listen.
You are tossing the idea around in your mind, right? Surely, the way to control a discussion, direct the flow of ideas, and get someone to jump on your bandwagon is to use your words to convince and even manipulate. Yet, think about how much more likely you are to hear someone out and consider their point of view when you feel like they’ve been paying attention to you. You’re more willing to do something they’ve requested or give them what they’re asking for if you feel like that person has taken the time to listen to you and has shown a deep interest in what you think or feel. Beyond that realization, consider that the only way to know how to build an argument to budge others from their stance is to listen to them and figure out from which angle to approach their way of thinking. There within lies the compelling strength of a master conversationalist. If you are striving to become a great leader and influential figure, it’s worth it to acquire the following listening skills:
1. Don’t cut others off while they are talking. It’s disrespectful and it makes them feel like their ideas are being devalued. Be patient and let them finish their thought.
2. Actually pay attention. Avoid getting so caught up in coming up with a rebuttal or good come back line that you completely miss what the other person is expressing.
3. Use the various nonverbal gestures that let a person know you are present and connected. Try these nonverbal cues:
- Lean forward, without slouching.
- Make eye contact, instead of letting your eyes wander, but don’t stare.
- Nod your head, not like you’re falling asleep, but like you get what they’re saying.
- Smile/Laugh if they say something cheerful or funny.
- Put away any distracting devices, i.e. cell phones, mp3 players, etc.
4. Ask questions related to what the other person is talking about. That is a surefire way to let someone know you were not only paying attention, but that you’re interested.
Before I run off to another meeting, I’ll share with you one of my personal secret weapons: the head nod and furrowed brow combo. When my eyebrows move closer together and I nod my head as in “yes, I get what you’re saying,” without fail, the person who is speaking stops talking to everyone else in the room and directs his/her words towards me. If you need a big dog, power player to notice you, if even for a moment, then give that one-two punch a try.