Have you ever walked away from a conversation wondering if the person you were speaking to heard a word you were saying? I think we all have had that feeling at some time. Recently, I had that experience.

During a conversation with a colleague, I found myself defending my position instead of listening. As a result, when the conversation ended, we were both frustrated. I felt as if we were talking at each other instead of with each other…

Later that day, I went to see my colleague. I apologized for not taking the time to listen to their point of view. Over the next 30 minutes, instead of engaging in a back and forth, I closely listened to my colleague explain their position.

Although we didn’t resolve the issue, I left the meeting with an understanding of why my colleague felt so strongly about the subject. At our next meeting, I restructured my proposal to address my colleague’s concerns. When the meeting ended, we both agreed to a plan to resolve the issue.

Now, I know what you are thinking, “Kim, you know better. Why didn’t you practice what you teach?” Yes, I know better. So why did I fall into the communication trap? Because I am human!

As humans, it’s natural for us to stop listening and begin to think about our responses. However, as leaders, listening is a critical skill for achievement and success. Listening not only affects our ability to build relationships but also impacts our growth.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”

– Ralph Nichols

Why is listening so essential for leaders?

Becoming a better listener will improve our ability to influence, persuade, and negotiate; therefore, our professional and personal relations will improve significantly. John Maxwell reminds us, “When we listen effectively, we can improve our ability to connect and understand the people that we interact with within our day-to-day lives.”

If listening is essential to success, can you improve your listening skills? Of course, you can become a great listener. Maxwell shares the following five steps to help you improve your listening skills:

  1. Keep an open mind while listening
  2. Fully engage by stopping what you are doing and making eye contact
  3. Maintain a non-judgmental attitude and listen objectively
  4. Paraphrase and ask questions
  5. Pay attention and avoid the temptation to think about what you are going to say next

Over the years, I have worked on improving my listening skills. Some days are better than other days. While I have made progress, every day, I work to get better at being an effective listener.

Are you changing the world with your listening skills?


Want to Change Your World using your listening skills? Click HERE!

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  • Kim, thanks for your inspiring article about listening. We all could do better in this area of communication with other people. I plan to improve my listening using Maxwell’s 5 steps to improving listening skills.

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    Dr. Kim Moore

    About the author

    I'm Kim, your Educational Leadership Guide. I equip educational leaders with research-based and experientially learned educational leadership principles and best practices to promote student success.