Why Listening is the Most Powerful Personal Strategy You Can Use

NetworkingPersonal BrandingSuccess Strategies

Getting support from others is less about showing how fabulous you are. It’s more about showing them you know how fabulous they are. According to personal and professional development expert Brian Tracy in The Power of Charm, acceptance, appreciation, approval, admiration, and attention are key behaviors that make others feel more important and help win them over.

I’d actually add an adjective before each one: sincere. No one wants to be showered with false flattery, but they do like it when you genuinely notice things. And how do you show that? By listening.

Over the last couple of weeks, the topic of listening has come up in a variety of places. From a reporter confiding to me about a source, “He just didn’t listen to my questions” to the exasperated look I caught from a friend when the story she was telling was interrupted for the fifth time by one of our dinner companions.

When people don’t feel heard, they feel detached from you, and that’s dangerous to the health of your personal brand and your network.

In an era of mass A.D.D, has listening become a lost art? How can we become better listeners?

Two ears – one mouth

Listening in person means paying attention to what someone is saying, without jumping in to hog the spotlight with your own insights. When they talk, it’s their moment, give them the space to shine. Resist the urge to be their color commentator. It’s annoying, for example, when a friend starts saying, “I was on a plane to Salt Lake City last week when…,” and you jump in with a personal trivia nugget, “Oh, Salt Lake City, that’s such a great place for skiing. It reminds me of the time I…” In other words, leave the pop-up video commentary to VH1.

Showing that you’re listening online is even more powerful, because when it’s so easy to post our thoughts, activities, and feelings everywhere, we don’t want all those thoughts, activities and feelings to be about us. Actively read the blogs and status updates of your network, review their tweets, and share your reactions. Even better is to find opportunities to forward links to their content to your own network to help get their message in front of more people.

Acknowledge those who took the time

I’m definitely trying to get better at responding to blog comments to acknowledge those who’ve taken the time. It’s definitely a work in progress, but I’ve made it a priority (by the way, if you’re going to leave a comment, thank you in advance, I’ll give a personalized reply as soon as I can!).

You might be thinking, “Who has time to listen when there is so much to pay attention to?” Just because you can’t pay attention to everyone, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to anyone. Obviously, those whose work is most relevant to you will get more of your focus. And personally, I tend to pay more attention to people who are paying attention to me. It’s just human nature, I think. Though you don’t want someone to come on too strongly and try to be your BFF after three or four retweets (hey, I can’t be bought that cheaply).

To spoof a famous saying, “In the land of the deaf, the one-eared man is king.” If you can listen to your customers, your prospects, your interviewers, your colleagues, and your supporters even just a little bit better than your competitors do, you’ll have a big advantage even when all else is equal.