Listening as an Active Skill
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand;
they listen with the intent to reply.” - Stephen R. Covey
Here at The Charisma Rules, we're all about learning to be more charismatic, and as we highlight in the book, when it comes to being more charismatic, applying listening as an active skill is crucial.
If you pay close attention, you will notice that charismatic people ALWAYS listen way more than they speak.
I once had a friend who dated a girl who he "thought" was extremely charismatic. In my opinion, she was the exact opposite. She dominated every conversation with anecdotes and stories about herself. As soon as someone else would start to tell a story, she would interrupt them with a story of her own.
He thought the fact that she was so outspoken, and happy to talk to anyone made her charismatic, when in reality it did the exact opposite.
She clearly hadn't mastered the art of listening as an active skill, and it was also clear that she wasn’t familiar with Mark Twain’s quote, “If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.”
Charismatic people, especially leaders are great listeners and they are masters of active listening. They have the ability to let other people do the talking, thereby making these people feel valued, important and worthy.
What most people don't know, is that charisma is about how you make other people feel when they are around you, and nothing makes a person feel more valued than someone that takes the time to listen to them.
Taking the time to listen to another person speak, and more importantly letting them finish what they are saying before you begin to speak, is another rare skill that will make you immediately appear more charismatic. It will make you stand out from almost everyone else, because this simple art is found in rare commodities in this day and age.
If you’re like most people, you may find that you are guilty of only part-listening to people when they speak.
By this I mean that often (before people start to focus on their charisma) people are guilty of listening to the other person speak, only to the point where they want to chime in to the conversation with a reply, or their own story. From then on, they barely listen to what the other person is saying, as they wait for their turn to speak.
Can you relate to this?
The problem is when you do this it becomes very clear to the person that is speaking at the time. You may not be aware of it, but they will be able to tell by your facial expressions and more than likely lack of eye-contact that you are not really listening to them and merely waiting for your turn to speak.
Brushing up on your active listening, and thereby listening to people when they speak and paying full attention to them is vital if you want to improve your charisma levels.
2 Simple Active Listening Skills
There are 2 simple tricks you can use which will help you do this. Firstly, while they are speaking, try to create images to go along with the words they are saying. Instead of only listening to the words they are speaking, make a story in your mind, almost like a movie, which goes along with their dialog.
This will immediately improve your listening ability as it will help you “see” what they are saying, as well as remember what they were saying at a later stage. I’ve also found a really powerful result from using this process, is that it has led to asking more intelligent and perceptive questions related to the person’s story. In the past you may have simply nodded as you went through the motions of hearing them but not really listening, but using this technique you will appear a lot more insightful and interested as you start to ask questions about the conversation.
As you start to make mental movies in your mind as the person tells their story, you will find that it allows you to wonder about events and details of their story. If they were telling you about how they were stuck in traffic, and you had begun to make a movie of this in your mind, you'd probably wonder to yourself “Where were they driving. You might find yourself asking them this at a later stage, because you are genuinely interested.
Do you see the power in this?
Straight away it would be clear that you were listening with great intent and were genuinely interested in their story, rather than simply going through the motions and waiting for your turn to speak, as so many of us do.
Sure, it's important to have good two-way conversation, but if you are going to be charismatic, you have to learn how to be a world class listener.
The second step to improving your active listening skills is that I then also make a concerted effort to wait for a full 5 seconds until after they have finished speaking, before I start to speak.
This may sound extreme and may sound like an eternity to wait, but give it a try. Let the person’s words sink in and then only reply.
It’s hard to really emphasize the incredible power this will have on the person you are speaking to. They will feel that you have really listened to them, and only then have replied with your part of the conversation.
I’ve found that these two tips have worked wonders for me. Combined with my awareness to be more present, I’ve noticed that I have started to really listen to the other person in the conversation speak, as I know that I am not allowed to talk until they are finished.
In the past when I had something to say, I would inadvertently stop listening to the rest of their dialog, and only think about what or how I was going to speak next. I would hear them say the words, but I didn’t listen to them, and I certainly didn’t make a mental movie to go along with them.
The result was that they washed over me with little or no effect. This in turn had a knock-on effect to my presence ability, as instead of listening to them, my mind was wondering off elsewhere thinking about my side of the conversation.
In a nutshell, active listening is a skill that anyone can learn, and once you do it will make you appear infinitely more charismatic almost overnight!
Active Listening Exercise and Example
Charisma Exercise – Master Your Active Listening Skills
The object of this exercise is to have a conversation with someone, and as they speak, try to make a mental picture or movie in your mind of what they are saying. If they told you a story about how they were stuck in traffic earlier that day, create a vivid image of them sitting in their car, waiting in the traffic.
You will be amazed how more clearly you interact with them and will really connect with them in a way you may not have in the past.
Then wait a full 5 seconds after they finished speaking to start talking. Of course you don’t want to make this seem weird or creepy. To ensure you don’t do this, make sure you keep a warm friendly expression on your face. I’ve found that having a gentle smile (if the situation allows it), or nodding my head slowly in agreement help avoid any weirdness that my come from delaying your response after they speak.
Keep eye contact as well, as you wait for your turn to speak. This will appear as if you are really letting their words sink in.
Trust me when I say those 5 seconds will feel like a lifetime when you first try this exercise, but the more you practice this, the more you will start to see the power behind it.
Continue to build on this skill with each and every conversation you find yourself having, and in no time you will find that your active listening skills not only improve, but so does your charisma.
Want to Sky Rocket Your Active Listening Skills?
Here at The Charisma Rules, we believe Charisma is a simple skill that can be learnt. It all comes down to being aware that these rules exist, and then applying them to your life.
If you'd like to learn more about these rules, be sure to grab a copy of The Charisma Rules.