Listening Skills

by Steve Roche

Why is listening important?

Listening skills are essential to many business roles and functions, including:

  • managing, coaching, mentoring, facilitation
  • sales, negotiation, arbitration, market research
  • appraisal, interviewing, training, consultancy

Good listening is also a vital part of these activities:

  • making decisions
  • reaching agreements
  • selling and influencing
  • dealing with customer complaints
  • getting and giving information (such as policy, instructions, feedback, marketing information).

The only way to entertain some folks is to listen to them.

Kin Hubbard

Listening is essential to your effectiveness as a speaker.

To be an effective speaker you have to take feedback from the audience (listen to them, in other words) and adjust your presentations according to what works most effectively for them.

So listening is important because:

  • Without listening, no organisation can operate effectively, nor ultimately survive. Effective listening provides the information required to enable organisations to adapt to meet the changing needs of customers and keep up with market trends.
  • Good listening and skilful questioning give a powerful message to those with whom you interact. They hugely increase your capacity to influence, motivate, develop or serve people effectively.
  • Listening and questioning are an inherent part of most life skills, fundamental to human interaction, and a major factor in the success of a good communicator.
  • Good listening allows us to demonstrate that we are paying attention to the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of the other person (seeing the world through their eyes). This is crucial to maintaining productive relationships, and sometimes the only way to establish communication.

Good listening also benefits personal relationships. Steven Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People tells how the CEO of a multinational with 35,000 employees came to acknowledge the importance of listening: ‘He said “My wife had told me I didn’t listen to our daughter.” After he honed his listening skills, he and his daughter grew closer, and he realised the value of listening as applied to business.’