Art of ListeningThe most successful business leaders understand the art of listening is key to effective leadership. It is an art that can be acquired and developed, but only if you are willing to commit time and resources to doing it well.

So says Jim Sniechowski, Ph.D., a contributor to LinkedIn Today. Becoming a “really, really good listener” starts with setting your own ego aside: “Not deny it. Not suppress it. But set it aside; bracket it, so to speak,” so you can truly bring the other person “into full view."

Sniechowski offers what he calls “four essentials” that lead to the art of listening.

The Art of Listening

  1. The other person is not you. It is important to recognize that even if you and the other person share a common social and economic status, even the same education and experience, “that’s not enough to guarantee listening deeply, because there will always be points of divergence.”  The other person “doesn’t operate from the same assumptions as you do.” If you disregard this insight, your interaction with this other person “can branch off in unexpected and startling ways that can lead to confusion, if not irritation and even rage.”
  2. Be curious.  “Deep listening” operates on the presumption you are genuinely curious about the other person and what makes him or her tick. When you do it right, “it returns a treasure of understanding that enhances the familiarity and the closeness of your relationship.”
  3. A person's perspective is as important to them as yours is to you. Hard to imagine, right? Understanding this basic principle frees you from the tendency we all have of dismissing someone else’s point of view when it is not aligned with what we think and believe. “This doesn’t mean you have to agree or even want to remain connected,” Sniechowski contends. “But you won’t fall into the trap of characterizing them from your own point of view.”
  4. Listen for non-conscious presuppositions and assumptions. What is going on beneath the surface is just as important as what is being said. “We all express from the unconscious dimension of our minds. That’s unavoidable.” This is where assumptions and presuppositions live, and why they get expressed as “slips of the tongue, inconsistencies, even contradictions.”

After expressing yourself on a particular point, have you ever followed up by saying, “I didn’t really mean that.”?

Sniechowski says, you really did mean it.

The passion with which you delivered your statement is a clue to the depth of your conviction.

Conviction is rooted in the unconscious and what is true for you is equally true for the other person.

By integrating and practicing what Sniechowski calls “these listening strategies,” you will become not only a good listener, you will have the art of listening down, which makes you a more effective leader.

The practice will “open up other people to you in ways that will sometimes prove breathtaking.”

How do you practice the art of listening?