Listening: The Most Powerful Communication Skill

If you want to be seen, stand up. If you want to be heard, speak up. If you want to be loved, shut up and listen.

The most important thing you can do when someone comes to you for help is to LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. Don’t think you have to come up with some useful suggestion. Your job is to help the other person arrive at her own solution.

How do you do that? Withhold your suggestion until the other person explicitly says, “Tell me what to do.” Even then, pause for a moment, because more often than not, the other person will go right on talking. He’ll continue because he’s either fearful of your suggestion or doesn’t really want it. In fact, he may want nothing more than the chance to share his story and have you listen to it.

Of course, some people tell me that’s easier said than done. They say they have to do something, especially if the other person is really hurting. Not necessarily so.

The truth is–most of us are frightened by other people’s tears. We want to rush in with our suggestion and say, “Don’t cry. Don’t cry.” In reality, when we listen, when we allow another person to cry, we permit healing to take place.

One of my associates had a woman come to him for counseling after her sister had been killed in a car accident. For weeks all of her friends had been telling her what to do and how to feel, but it didn’t help. My associate said the grieving woman basically paid him for three sessions just to let her cry. After those three listening sessions, the woman was doing quite well and didn’t need the counselor anymore.

Without a doubt, your listening helps the other person, but it also helps you. That’s what one doctor found out.

An old man in poor health visited the new doctor in town for the FIRST time. As he entered the doctor’s office, he noticed a sign that read – “1st visit to doctor — $50. Subsequent visits — $25.” So the old man greeted the doctor by saying, “Doc, it sure is nice to see you AGAIN.”

The doctor pulled out his stethoscope and began his exam. As he listened to the old man’s vital signs, he began tapping and nodding and looking worried. The old man got a bit worried and thought something must be wrong. So he asked the doctor, “Doc, what do you think I should do?” The doctor said, “Well, just keep doing the same thing I told you to do the last time you were here.”

Action:  This week I challenge you. When someone comes to you with a problem or concern, hold back when you’re tempted to jump in with a suggestion. Listen as much as you can for as long as you can.