The Listening Advantage


SEPTEMBER 19, 2018

Last night, members of our INFLUENCEHER community gathered at OwnerIQ’s charming Fort Point office for a workshop on a topic that may, on the surface, seem simple: listening.

With an uplifting and warm energy, leadership development expert, Alesia Latson, kicked off the workshop with a simple task – go around and give as many people a handshake as possible.


“With one handshake,” she said, “you build the rapport equivalent to three hours of conversation.” One firm handshake is a quick way to build trust and respect, and therefore improve your communication with a person.

As she dug deeper, Alesia emphasized that the truly critical part of any conversation is listening. It is the act of listening that "allows the other person to have a voice. There can’t be speaking unless there is listening.”

When someone speaks, they can only hope to be effective and compelling, but the reality is that the power is entirely in the hands of the listener. And often, “we fail to notice how stingy we are with our listening.” 


Alesia also pointed out how “most of the time we are listening to what we’re saying internally about what they’re saying.” We’re listening to ourselves, our own internal voices, as we think about what to say next, or as we drift off and start going over errands we have to run later or how we forgot to email so-and-so. But ever notice that when you’re active and present during a conversation, you never have to wonder about what to say next? Once the connection is broken and you stop actively listening, that’s when it gets hard to bridge that gap again.


“What’s possible with rapport? Anything.

What’s possible without it? Nothing.”


Alesia led participants in another exercise where everyone paired off and sat facing each other. One person was asked to talk about something they’re very passionate about, but the other person was asked to do their best to not listen at all. Looking around the room, you could see half the people actively not listening—scrolling on their phones, fiddling with objects on the table, looking down at their hands.


“This feeling was all too familiar,” said one attendee afterwards.


Amen to that, I thought. We’ve all been part of a conversation where we absentmindedly start scrolling through our phones as we continue to half-heartedly “listen,” or have been on the other side—where it’s obvious that the person’s attention simply isn’t there.


The impact of knowing someone isn’t listening to you is almost immediate; it’s a feeling of rejection, that the other person doesn’t care or value you.


It's also not that we don’t know how to actively listen to someone, it’s that we choose not to. That’s why, Alesia added, “listening is an act of generosity. You’re giving someone your respect and attention. The sole source is you.”


“Listening is life given to the other person.

Life is diminishing when it’s absent.”


Alesia shared an important idea that resonated throughout the session: “Don’t have your listening be contingent on the person speaking, or the content of what they’re saying, have it be contingent on who you are.”


In other words, listening shouldn’t be based on whether we like someone or if we agree with them. This is something that, in this day and age especially, is incredibly crucial to keep reminding ourselves. And putting this lesson into action means you'll be able to better diffuse conflict, understand issues, and formulate solutions.


So next time your coworker is sharing a far-fetched idea, your partner is expressing frustration over their tough day at work, or a new acquaintance is talking about their fly-fishing hobby – make the decision to be present.

Not because you’re necessarily interested, but because the amount of respect you give someone reflects on the kind of person you are, not them.

Written by Lauren Cohen, Marketing Manager at MITX