For most, listening does not come easily – not because we’re unintelligent or callous – but because the mechanisms of our brain make active listening challenging.
Every moment, humans are exposed to massive amounts of information, and in order to process it, our brain operates a sort of triage system. In conversation with others, this optimisation process takes place. By listening to the content on a shallow level, just so that we can construct a reply, our brain deludes us into believing that it is doing us a favour. On the contrary, this process robs us of the opportunity to truly listen to what the other person is saying.
The American self-help author Stephen R. Covey once said: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. But this does not have to be the case. We can make a conscious effort to become, better, engaged, active listeners, and the process does not have to be difficult.
In his TEDx Talk “Three words that will change your life”, Dr Mark Holder elaborates on how we can become better listeners through a simple phrase: “tell me more”. His thesis was based on a survey of hospital patients who reported to feeling more connected to healthcare workers who used the phrase ‘tell me more’, than to those that didn’t.
The reasoning behind this is obvious. When we invite others to elaborate, we prevent ourselves from interrupting them. This halts our instinct to glaze over what’s been said, or our tendency to formulate a quick response. In this, we forget about our own biases which allows us to thoroughly process what’s been said.
Those three words signpost our engagement with the other person. When we invite them to elaborate, we validate their point of view, allowing them to feel comfortable in our presence. This, in turn, strengthens the overall relationship between the two parties.
Relationships are the building blocks of any business. A rebel entrepreneur will make a conscious effort to deepen relationships and becoming a better listener is a hugely important part of this process.