How Do You Listen?

The focus of an influencer is always on the audience.

If you are a speaker – it’s about the people listening to you.

If you are in sales – it’s about your customer or prospect.

If you are a leader – it’s about the people you are leading.

If you are a teacher – it’s about your students.

If you are a parent – it’s about your children

Almost everyone has this backwards. They think being influential means they need to become polished or powerful. Influence, though, is all about the audience. Be it an audience of one or one thousand. When it’s about them, they get it, and we grow in their eyes.

By thinking out instead of in, by concentrating on others instead of on us, a tremendous transformation takes place. We go from inner directed to outer directed, from taker to giver, from self-centered to others-focused, from tightfisted to generous, from shortsighted to farsighted, from selfish to selfless. We begin to see and act on behalf of others’ needs ahead of our own; our thoughts are in terms of “we” instead of “me.”

One of the ways leaders can practice this type of thinking is by practicing outward listening instead of inward listening.

In the book The 11 Laws of Likability, author Michelle Tillis Lederman describes inward listening as “The most basic form of listening. It is the process of taking what is being said and finding a way to relate it to yourself, filtering what you hear through your own experience. When a friend says, “I love that color blue,” and you answer either, “Oh me too!” or “No, I prefer darker shades.” You are responding based on your own preferences and opinions, whether consciously or subconsciously. When we listen on this level, we take in what is being said from our own perspective, finding ways to relate to it.”

This type of listening is inner directed and steers the conversation back toward you. In many cases this can feel like you are hijacking the conversation and it pushes people away.

However, with “outward listening you are focusing on other speakers and relating what they’re saying to what you know about them. When you are engaged in this level of listening and your friend says she likes the color blue, your response is more along the lines of, “Blue looks really good on you,” or “Why do you like it?” Outward listening leverages the law of curiosity; it’s when you use expansion probes and phrases such as “Tell me more about that,” and “How come?”

Outward listening comes from a point of security where a leader is outer directed instead of inner directed and it is through that level of thinking and that approach to listening that we build influence.

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