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Listening is counterintuitive.

If I’m the smartest person in the room, then I’m the one who can bring the most insight and influence to the conversation. So I should talk.

If I’m the best communicator in the room, then I’m the one who can summarize what everyone is thinking. So I should talk.

If I’m the most likable person in the room, then I’m the one people would prefer to hear over the others, who they like less. So I should talk.

But listening is counterintuitive.

The smartest person in the room became that way by listening instead of talking. We gain insights about our fields by listening. Not by talking.

The best communicator in the room conveys ideas well by knowing what others want to hear and how they want to hear it. We become great communicators when we understand what motivates people. Then, we can craft metaphors that strike a chord with our audience. We do this by listening, not by talking.

The most likable person in the room becomes that way by prioritizing others. We become likable when we ask others questions they enjoy answering. When we create a safe platform for people to share the things they love, they can’t say enough good things about us. We do this by listening, not by talking.

Listening is counterintuitive.

I’m often tempted to unload a dump truck of advice on people whenever we start talking about marketing, morning routines, productivity, and social media. It’s my first instinct! I’ve been working on stopping that reaction, and I’ve been trying to trade it for listening more often.

Here are a couple tips I have on being a better listener:

  • Give up your right to be right. At the heart of being a good listener is a concession: you don’t have to be the smartest, wittiest, coolest person at the function. That’s ok.

  • When a quiet person finishes a sentence, don’t respond. Instead, maintain eye contact and stay quiet. Trust me, they’ll keep sharing!

  • Trade “anything else?” with “and what else?” This small change opens the conversation for people to keep sharing in more formal brainstorms and meetings.

  • Tell people “that sounds hard.” When people describe difficult experiences, they tend to focus on the external. Take the conversation to a more connected place by acknowledging emotions.

Listening is tough, and it requires constant maintenance. But try it out! By listening, you’ll become the smartest, clearest, coolest person in your circles.

Joshua Reese