I think of myself as a better listener than a talker but lately, I have drifted too far to the side of talking.

By Steve Moran

I am playing with creating a little “just for fun” video of a Senior Housing Forum Team meeting. I recorded about a 40-minute zoom call and am trying to cull it to less than 90-seconds. What completely shocked and embarrassed me was that I did so much talking.   

I think of myself as a better listener than a talker but after working on that video, I am now convinced I have drifted too far to the side of talking.  

Why It Makes A Difference

There are two reasons why it makes a difference. The first is that if you are a good listener, people will like you better. There is a ton of data that supports this. We mostly love to talk and not only do we love to talk we mostly love to talk about ourselves. We figure it is the way that makes us look smart. Even when we listen, oftentimes the listening is all about just waiting until it is our turn to talk again, which means we are only marginally listening . . . at best.

The second is that when we listen to people, they perceive us as . . . are you ready for it . . . smarter. A little clarification. Being a good listener means both keeping your mouth shut when the other person is talking and asking great follow-up questions. Those follow-up questions oftentimes start with “How,” “Why,” or “What.”

And, there are so many other ways to go:  

  • Tell me why you became . . .

  • What do you love about what you do?

  • What frustrates you most about what you do?

  • Who is your favorite resident and why?

  • What is your big dream in life?

There is a third reason . . . that rarely gets talked but we all know to be true. People who talk too much and listen too little are annoying. It does not take all that much time for people to really just want to get out of there.  

The Leader Problem

This is a huge problem for leaders. If you are a leader, people expect to listen to you, they expect you to talk more. They may very well be listening to you because you are saying something brilliant, but at least as often they are listening with rapt attention because they are supposed to, not because they really want to.

This is worth guarding against. Just because people will listen to you pontificate because you are “the boss” or a thought leader does not actually mean they are thrilled to be doing so. It may very well be that they are doing so because they think they have to, or because they think it will get them something.

The Benefits

Spending more time listening pays huge dividends:

  • The people you lead will like you more and, if they like you more, they will like following you more.

  • If you listen more, you will learn a lot more about what is going on in your organization.

  • If you listen more, you will learn a lot more from your peers.  

I was recently at a professional gathering where some of the usual suspects were missing from the group. For reasons that at first seemed inexplicable, the overall gathering was just plain better, more dynamic, more enjoyable. It then dawned on me that those missing people were likely the reason for the amazing dynamics. Not because they are not smart people, because they are, but rather because they dominate the conversation, and with that dominance gone, there were opportunities for others to really shine.

Food for thought for you and me.