10 Things That Great Listeners Don’t Do


Why is “being listened to” so important? Because the human heart yearns to be understood.

“Not being heard limits our responsiveness in all areas of our living. We long to be understood by someone listening to and hearing us, with understanding and compassion. We become stronger when we are recognised. The simplest things can trigger a sense of rejection, even an unreturned phone call.”

– Michael P. Nichols

People Love To Be Genuinely Listened To
The above quote from Michael P. Nichols captures a true principle. That all humans share a fundamental need for significance. Try asking a colleague or client for their thoughts about something. If you ask in a way which appeals to them, you’ll get practically a 100% uptake.

Why is this the case? Because the opportunity to be heard and understood is inherently motivating. Listening to another person affirms their significance. It says, “you’re important to me, I care about you and I care what you think.” It’s hard not to take that as a huge compliment and a sign of respect for your humanness.

Significance truely is a basic human need. Who doesn’t like to feel important? To know that they matter and that what they have to say matters?

Have you ever noticed that “listen” and “silent”
are spelt with the same letters? Think about it…

10 Things That Great Listeners Don’t Do[1]:
1. Interrupt
2. Respond too soon
3. Match the speaker’s points with their own experiences
4. Editorialise in midstream
5. Jump to conclusions
6. Ask close-ended questions without a specific purpose
7. Give you their ideas before hearing yours
8. Judge you
9. Try to solve the problem too quickly
10. Take calls or interruptions during your meeting/conversation

For some of us some of these can be a challenge – like not interrupting. It’s an easy mistake to make and most of us have likely done it at one time or another.

But did you notice something about the list? Eight of the ten items are related to timing – about reacting as opposed to responding. Reacting is reflexive and responding is a considered course of action.

What You Can Do About It…
You may be saying, “that’s wonderful, but how can I change ten habits all at once?”. The answer is that you don’t’ have to. The one thing to change – the ‘80/20’ of it – is that if you can change just one thing – being less reactive – you are on your way to nailing all ten.

Reactivity sits in the “bullseye” of the bad listening dartboard.

One way to do this is simply to take 10 seconds to think before speaking. It’s enough time to gather your thoughts, organise them, and deliver a more compelling question or comment. The next time you feel the urge to react to someone’s question or comment…pause…breathe…think. Then share your perspective.

Try it. It can make a world of difference to your relationships and interactions.

[1] Adapted from “The Trusted Advisor” by David H. Maister

Craig D’Souza is the founder and CEO of Perth based consultancy Business Velocity, which assists organisations, teams, and individuals to achieve peak performance at work and in their lives.