Listening: An Evergreen Skill

Listening: An Evergreen Skill
Photo by Icons8 Team / Unsplash

I've been interested in honing 'evergreen skills'. These skills are context-independent qualities that amplify performance. For example, qualities like listening, writing, thinking, talking, connecting with people, managing ambiguity, and more, are things you can leverage in any situation; they'll always be important. These skills are like levers; by themselves, they do not offer much value, but when coupled with domain-specific local skills, they make the difference between a 1X and 10X performer.

For the past week, I've gotten curious about how we can listen better. And that is because I was thinking about how one can speak better. Turns out that deep listening is a precursor to impactful speaking.

How to listen? See here:

Don’t be a crocodile, all mouth and no ears. Choose a learning lens over a lecturing lens. Be aware of the differences between your lenses and those of others. To truly listen to others is a gift to them. Give it with courtesy and humility. The payback is real understanding.

Avoid multitasking. It's fancy to do ten things at once and believe you're also listening, but you really aren't.

You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.

Read Mortimer J Adler's How To Speak How To Listen here. You can watch this video summary here.

It's best not to be a conversational narcissist. Listen to understand, not to respond. For when you understand, you empathize; you can then pinpoint to exactly what you want to address. This makes any conversation both effective and efficient.

Listening deep naturally requires handling disagreements well. When you disagree, try not to respond immediately. Wait. You'll be able to frame your views better. For deep and effective listening requires patience.

Take notes. Adler writes: “The notes you take while listening record what you have done with your mind to take in what you have heard. That record enables you to go on to the second step…What you have notes…provides you with food for thought.”

Deep listening facilitates subtle thinking. It enables learning. Understanding. I like to go back to Erich Fromm's 6 rules of listening:

  1. The basic rule for practicing this art is the complete concentration of the listener.
  2. Nothing of importance must be on his mind, he must be optimally free from anxiety as well as from greed.
  3. He must possess a freely-working imagination which is sufficiently concrete to be expressed in words.
  4. He must be endowed with a capacity for empathy with another person and strong enough to feel the experience of the other as if it were his own.
  5. The condition for such empathy is a crucial facet of the capacity for love. To understand another means to love him — not in the erotic sense but in the sense of reaching out to him and of overcoming the fear of losing oneself.
  6. Understanding and loving are inseparable. If they are separate, it is a cerebral process and the door to essential understanding remains closed.

Until next time,