I had dinner the other night with a business colleague at a really nice restaurant, and everything was going well…but one thing really stood out to me. Sure, it was busy and our server’s section was full, but I could tell his mind was elsewhere. This proved to be the case when the food that was delivered to the table wasn’t what we ordered. It was CLOSE to what we ordered, but the detail wasn’t there and several things were wrong.

There’s a big difference between listening and hearing. In fact, the definition of the two paints a pretty clear picture:

Listening – (verb) to take notice of and act on what someone says.
Hearing – (noun) the faculty of perceiving sounds.

One thing should stand out immediately…one is a noun and the other is a verb. One just “is” and the other requires energy. If you’re going to ever have any level of influence with anyone…this is paramount. When you hear someone talking…you do just that…you hear them. It’s very passive, requires no energy or effort, and you will almost always tune out and your focus will be attracted elsewhere.

However, when you LISTEN – you’re taking an active role in the conversation and giving someone the gift of your attention. In reality, more often than not, this is really what people want the most in first place…they simply want to know someone is actually listening and paying attention to them. Here’s the beauty of this…through active listening you’re able to hear the things that aren’t being said.

People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. If you’re able to show them that you care by being an active listener and responding with questions…you’ll be amazed at the things that people will tell you. Rephrase what they’ve said to you back to them in the form of a question. For instance:

  • So if I’m hearing you correctly…
  • If I’m understanding what you’re saying…
  • Just so I’m clear…are you saying….?
  • Do I understand you to mean…?

Active listening and using clarifying questions like those will absolutely strengthen just about any relationship you’ve got…personal and professional. Guys…are you looking for a way to really impress your lady? Do this. Trust me. It’s really that simple.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Would the people around me consider me an active listener?
  • What was the last thing someone said to me? (If you don’t remember, it’s likely you weren’t really listening)
  • Do I regularly ask clarifying questions?
  • Do I interrupt people?

Great listening skills will automatically put you leaps and bounds ahead of most everyone else. Don’t be the person sitting on the edge of your seat ready to jump in with your opinion. Check your ego at the door and be interested in the person you’re communicating with. Remember…in order to be interesting, you must first be interested.

Here’s a challenge for you. (I wish I could take credit for this, but this came from John Maxwell’s book):

Schedule a listening appointment. Set an appointment with the most important person in your life, and dedicate an hour to just communicating. Give that person your undivided attention (no phones, emails, texts, TV, etc) and do not spend less than 2/3 of the conversation listening to him or her.

Do that…and email me your stories! I’d love to hear how that worked for you, what you learned, the impact it had on your relationship, etc. Don’t be surprised if the person you ask to do this gives you a blank stare or looks at you like you’ve lost your mind (in fact, if that happens, I think it’s pretty clear what kind of listener you truly are), but do it anyway.

You’ll be glad you did! 🙂