Why Listening is the Most Valuable Tool in Business

Lots of people talk to you in your job every single day. Whether they are coworkers, bosses, friends, or subordinates everyone has something to say. But how do you know who to listen to? My advice? Everyone. Listening is arguably the most valuable tool anyone can bring into a group environment – work, school, religious organizations, or social situations, it doesn’t matter where you are. Chances are you hear everyone that talks to you but how many people are you actually listening to? Listed below are the six reasons why I believe listening is the most valuable tool you can acquire.

 Lots of people talk to you in your job every single day. Whether they are coworkers, bosses, friends, or subordinates everyone has something to say. But how do you know who to listen to? My advice? Everyone. Listening is arguably the most valuable tool anyone can bring into a group environment – work, school, religious organizations, or social situations, it doesn’t matter where you are. Chances are you hear everyone that talks to you but how many people are you actually listening to? Listed below are the six reasons why I believe listening is the most valuable tool you can acquire.

  1. Listen to those willing to talk– This may sound overly simple but a lot of the people who are talking to you are trying to communicate something they find important and want you to know it. There is always an exception to this rule. The person you see walking down the hallway towards you and your first response it to look for a side corridor to hide in, so you don’t waste the next 20-45 minutes pretending you have the energy to hear about all the illnesses your coworker’s cats have had in the past 8 months. NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR CATS ALICE! But most people do want to tell you something they find significant. Listen to what they have to say and start collecting an inventory of tidbits others haven given to you for free.

  2. Listen to personal things people tell you– If it’s not directly related to work, the things people tell you about their personal life are things that they value. Most of us find value in people who value us. If a someone tells you about their kids’ latest accomplishments, or illnesses, or weekend plans, listen to them and remember to follow-up. Don’t brush aside the fact that Becky is 36 weeks pregnant and then ask her the following week when her baby is due. Write it down if you need to. I know people who will leave a conversation and take 2-5 minutes to write down everything they thought was important. If your memory isn’t strong, find a workaround for it. Small talk is a way of showing others you pay attention to details.

  3. Listen to people who offer advice without expectation in return– On the opposite side of that spectrum, if someone offers you job or career advice or a simpler way to do your job more efficiently. Let them. Thank them for their advice, even if you don’t use it. You should always be looking for a way to get more out of the hours in your day. Time is the only currency that is finite and there is no way to acquire more. It is your responsibility if someone offers advice to vet this advice – push back and make sure you understand what they are saying completely. Maybe you’re doing an extra step that isn’t necessary in your process, but maybe that steps makes the tax returns easier at the end of the year. You are responsible for knowing if skipping a step saves time now but hurts later.

  4. Listen to people you trust– Once you’ve worked at a job for awhile you will start to understand who is giving you advice for their own personal gain and who is looking out for you. If you haven’t formally asked someone to serve as a mentor, consider asking someone who is in a current position you want and ask if they’d be willing to get coffee with you once a month. Ask them about their position, listen twice as much as you talk, and try to understand their thought process on tackling big issues.

  5. Yes and… This was a part of my improv training in college. Improvisational comedy is known for not having any rules but one of the best suggestions I got was listen to what your scene partner gives you and rather than negating it, offer a “yes and” to their suggestion. If a scene opened with:

    “I can’t believe you spray painted my hair blue!”

    “Yes, and I can’t believe how well you stayed put while I did it.”
    “Yes, and you should see your couch!”
    “Yes, and the deal I got on spray paint was unbelievable.”

    Three different ways to take the scene. Let someone give you advice, take the advice, and put your own spin on it. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Taking someone’s advice and showing it off in a new light will show them that you listened and are innovative. This is the fastest way to build trust and respect.

  6. Eye Contact is part of listening– Millennials, this one is for you. I, myself am a millennial so understand I’m standing in the glass house while I through this stone. As a society we are constantly glued to our phones (or even smartwatches now). Take five minutes and have a real conversation with someone. Sit in on a meeting without having your phone or laptop’s pop-up notifications tell the other people that you have something more important than them going on elsewhere.

Don’t just hear other people when they talk. Listen.

Blair

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