What if we told you there is something simple you can do that will improve your relationships, increase your productivity, minimize mistakes, and boost your confidence? There is! You'll experience all of these benefits merely by becoming a better listener.
There's a good chance you already believe you excel at this skill. Interestingly enough, most people think that they are above average listeners. However, according to a study of 3,492 individuals done by authors Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, there are 4 characteristics that really distinguish great listeners from the rest of us. In their Harvard Business Review article, they identified the following 4 traits of great listeners:
They Ask Good Questions. While we often think of good listeners as those who silently nod while someone's talking, they actually aren't the best listeners. In reality, people who ask probing and insightful questions—essentially, those who engage in 2-way communication—are perceived as the best listeners.
They Build Self-Esteem. Rather than reacting passively or worse, critically to others, good listeners make people feel supported. They create a safe environment where people feel encouraged to share.
They're Cooperative. Bad listeners were often seen as competitive. For example, they seemed to merely be listening so they could point out flaws in logic or take the time to formulate their response. By contrast, although good listeners may disagree, they leave the impression that they're trying to help, rather than just win an argument.
They Made Suggestions. Zenger and Folkman reported being surprised by this, because all too commonly, people will complain about someone who “didn't listen but instead jumped in and tried to immediately solve the problem.” They theorized that good listeners are either making suggestions more skillfully or alternatively, people are more appreciative of suggestions that come from a great listener.