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Marlene Chism


Leaders Who Listen Control the Conversation

Set aside your own agenda and practice discernment

Published: Wednesday, August 24, 2016 - 15:33

The world needs leadership, and there’s no better way to lead than to listen. A leader who listens controls the conversation, and has the power to build bridges instead of barriers.

Listening requires you to be present, to set aside your own agenda, to use discernment.

When someone says, “Black lives matter,” you respond with “That is true.”

When someone says, “All lives matter,” you respond with, “Yes they do.”

When someone shares any opinion, listening requires you to simply focus on the other person and see things for one moment from their point of view. Allow space. Count to 10. Breathe. Absorb.

Avoid the tendency to add value, start a debate, take it personally, or jump in with statistics to show how smart you are. In a nutshell, do not:
• Argue the point
• Jump to a conclusion
• Add “value”
• Take it personally
• Place blame
• Jump in with facts to support your opinion
• Judge the other person

Leaders who listen decide where to take the conversation. Is this the time to debate or the time to acknowledge? Is this the time to be certain or a time to be curious?

Leaders who understand how to listen aren’t triggered into angry debates or caught off guard by someone else’s agenda. The one with clarity always navigates the ship. The one who listens navigates though conscious decision-making and critical thinking rather than getting blown away by the winds of emotion.

Leaders who listen use discernment to guide the conversation. Instead of building barriers, they build bridges. Leadership listening requires self-discipline, practice, and self-mastery. Leaders who really listen:
• Stay in control of emotions
• Monitor their thinking
• Get curious
• Acknowledge emotions
• Stay open
• Decide the outcome of the conversation

When someone uses hate speech or an angry tone, leaders who listen remain conscious of and recognize their choices.

Where to start

Start by making the decision that through your listening you will control the temperature and direction of the conversation. Practice all the dos and don’ts listed above, but pick one to practice until you have mastered it.

For example, if you want to practice curiosity, say, “Tell me more so I can understand your position.” Then pay attention to your urges.

Do you have the strength of will to acknowledge the other person’s point of view without having to have the last word or be understood? Can you focus long enough to stay present without judging, criticizing, or ruminating on the conversation, or gossiping about the other person with your bestie? If not, repeat the practice until you have mastered the technique.

If, however, you need to practice not taking it on, you can simply acknowledge the other person’s emotion: “It sounds like you are really angry,” or “It sounds like you have had it up to here!”

Realize this: Listening is not necessarily about agreeing. Listening is about acknowledging the emotion so that the other person feels understood. Watch the temperature subside once the other person feels acknowledged. If you truly want to elevate your leadership, get curious about an opposing point of view to see if you have the character to hear what triggers you without getting drawn in.

Leaders who know how to listen are rare indeed. Learning to listen takes practice and patience, but in the end, leaders who know how to listen are miles ahead of others no matter what their education, IQ, or position.

First published on the SmartBrief blog.


About The Author

Marlene Chism’s picture

Marlene Chism

Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker, the author of Stop Workplace Drama (Wiley 2011) and No-Drama Leadership (Bibliomotion 2015), and an advanced practitioner of Narrative Coaching. She is a recognized expert on the LinkedIn Global Learning platform. Connect with Chism via LinkedIn or at MarleneChism.com