Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why Listening Is the Master Skill

In another post I pointed to eight people skills that are key to effective coaching and mentioned a free ebook that summarizes these skills, Support Coaching.

At the top of the list is listening, because I honestly believe it's the most important people skill you can have.

Also, I've posted several articles about adolescent behavior and what I call "the teen journey." In one article I emphasize the three most helpful things parents can offer a teen during this perilous phase of life: unconditional love, people skills and guidance. The people skills I recommend for parents are the same eight skills I recommend for coaches - with listening at the top.

When Dr. Thomas Gordon published his classic book on parenting, P.E.T. (Parent Effectiveness Training), the flagship skill was listening. And for good reason. A good listener can avoid or resolve most parent-child communication issues.

I always recommend that when learning people skills, you always start with listening. For a simple reason: it's is not only a power skill, it's the only people skill that is a key component of several other people skills:
  • Giving encouragement
  • Engaging in dialogue
  • Resolving conflict
  • Giving constructive feedback
  • Receiving feedback
  • Helping people think for themselves
  • Guiding learning
It's hard to do any of these skills well if you're a poor listener.

About 25 years ago I felt I had reached some kind of plateau in my personal growth, so I began seeing a counselor. After several months of weekly conversations with him, I had all the insights I needed to begin a new learning journey. The most impressive thing about him was his listening skills. He was some kind of a Zen Grand Master of listening. I was no slouch as a listener myself, but he made me feel like a novice. I realized that the skill of listening is a little like golf or chess. No matter how good you get, you can always get better. As a result, I resolved to resume working on my own listening skills.

In my life, most of the trouble I've had in relationships came from poor listening. And most of my successes came from listening well. 

It's that important.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength .


Wayne McEvilly said...

Denny Coates:
Very well done!
Aldous Huxley spoke to our Philosophy Club at USC in 1962 - I do not remember anything about what he said, but what I will never forget is the quality of his listening, after his speech, to what others were saying. His listening was palpable.
I always speak to the children about the wonders of their own listening capacities, about how their listening opens the doorway to great discoveries about the world and about themselves.
I am a fan of listening.

Anonymous said...

Dennis; I agree the #1 skill for parents is to learn
how to listen to their teens.
Listen to understand rather
than to be understood.