A good listener doesn’t listen to respond. They listen to learn:
The great Epictetus once said “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”. Listening is not the same as hearing. Listening is being self aware enough to put yourself in the shoes of whom you are communicating with and trying to truly understand what they are communicating. Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound. Listening is a skill, hearing is an ability. It occurs on the conscious level and requires patience and practice in order to master. Your goal when listening should be to gain knowledge.
Lets say you are in a job interview for a sales position and the recruiter asks “How will you bring us 10 clients in your first month of work?” If you are only listening to what the recruiter asks you will more than likely rattle off the cookie cutter answers you think they want to hear like hard work or determination. If instead you were truly listening to the recruiter you would be able to put yourself in his or her shoes and learn what answer they are looking for. You may say something along the lines of “Due to limited knowledge of the company I haven’t yet created a game plan. Can you tell me what is the biggest objection the company faces when it comes to acquiring new clients?” Obviously this is a complete game changer. Not only do you impress the recruiter with your emotional intelligence and interest in solving the company’s largest problems, you put yourself in control of the conversation and you direct the context of the conversation.
In a world of constant distraction and half assed communication it is very rare to converse with someone who is genuinely interested in listening to what you have to say. The gift of your full attention is one of the most profound gifts you can give someone. The biggest communication problem we face is that we do not listen with the intent to understand, we listen with the intent to reply. Do yourself and those around you a favor and talk half as much as you listen. You will build powerful connections and learn so much more by being a great listener.