When you want to make a difference… just listen.
Mother Teresa was a mere 5 feet tall and is known as one of the most humble people in the world, living her life with an attitude of complete joy toward serving others. And yet, Mother Teresa was an extremely powerful woman, changing lives worldwide. If I could choose anyone in the world to listen to me when I have a bad day or am contemplating some big decision in my life, I’m going to choose the person I think will be the best listener, of course. But what exactly does that mean? Listening requires humility, but humility can serve a very powerful role –– just think of Mother Teresa. If you can master the skill of listening, you can create change and influence where it otherwise may not happen. Good listening requires the ability to put the focus for the moment on someone else and take yourself out of the equation completely. Set aside your opinions, your advice, your preconceived notions, and your desire to talk about yourself… just listen. Our first inclination when someone comes to talk to us is to try to remedy their situation as quickly as possible. We want to eliminate the uncomfortable negative and turn toward the peaceful positive. But in doing so, we quickly relay the message, “I don’t want to hear what you’re dealing with.” What if, instead, we said, “Tell me more,” and give someone the gift of being heard, of telling us all that’s going on, everything that’s making them feel the way they’re feeling? By allowing someone to talk, to purge even, we tell them we care about them and about what they’re going through. They feel acknowledged and as if they matter –– that we’ll take the good with the bad, and we’ll still care. By asking someone to tell us more, we invite communication and sharing. Active listening means asking someone to talk, but then also acknowledging what’s being said by returning it back to them. This is called “mirroring” or “reflective listening,” and it shows someone you’ve actually heard what they’re saying. An example of how to do this would be to respond with something like, “So what I hear you saying is that you’re very frustrated, because…” and summarizing what you heard them say. What a difference this can make, especially when compared to a deflective response like, “But think, instead, about…” which leaves the individual feeling like they’re not being understood at all. The power of listening comes from being able to help another person feel heard, acknowledged and understood. Compassion, humility and a sincere willingness to serve another person are essential elements to being a good listener. Apply basic listening skills to every conversation you have in your daily life and witness the difference it makes. Applied to your job, particularly in a customer service role, good listening skills can make the difference between a customer feeling like an interruption and feeling valued and worthwhile. I know I’d rather my customers feel the latter… wouldn’t you?