This time of year, people spend a lot of time looking for the perfect holiday presents for loved ones. These gifts can involve a lot of money.
Sometimes you luck out, and the present hits the mark. It’s just what the person hoped for.
Other times, you might hear the obligatory “thank you” but inside the recipient wishes you’d gotten something else.
I’m going to tell you about a gift that I guarantee people will love…every time you give it.
And it costs you nothing, except time and effort.
It’s called listening.
Did you think I was going to reveal something more startling and dramatic? Are you tempted to discount this notion and move on to a more exciting idea?
Stay with me.
The fact is, most people are very poor listeners.
They’d much rather talk about themselves. They’re not as eager to hear what you have to say.
So they interrupt. (This is such an annoying behavior that I devoted an entire blog post to it.)
Or turn the conversation back to them as quickly as possible.
Or do something else at the same time while they’re supposedly listening to you. (But you can tell you don’t have their full attention, even over the phone.)
Think about how you feel when you’re trying to convey something that’s important to you, and you’re dealing with a poor listener.
If you’re like me, some of those emotions include disappointment and frustration.
Sometimes you can get so upset with the lack of responsiveness from the other person that you forget the point you’re trying to make.
Now…think about the last time someone listened to you and really got what you were saying.
How did you feel after that experience? About the other person? About yourself?
There are few things that matter to us as human beings than to feel that someone else “gets” us. We treasure those who take time to understand what we’re trying to say and make us feel valuable at that moment.
So if you’d like to start giving this gift more often, here are some tips…
1. Recognize the listening moment. It’s easy to engage in conversation and not so easy to notice when a person wants to tell you something important. Keep your radar up for those opportunities when you can switch from a back-and-forth exchange to one where you let the other person talk.
2. Ask questions that show you’re really paying attention. Avoid jumping in with advice, opinions and ideas. This gives the speaker permission to keep talking and lets them know you’re genuinely interested in learning more.
3. Summarize what they’re saying in your own words. When you’re able to recap what someone has said and re-state it even better than they can, you’ll get a positive reaction.
That’s because this level of listening requires hearing what’s said and not said, along with noticing tone of voice and body language. It requires putting together what is sometimes a disjointed mish-mash of thoughts and words, and organizing them into a coherent message.
If you commit yourself to developing this prized skill, you will be able to give this gift endlessly over the lifetime of your relationship.
And if that individual’s happiness and well-being matters to you, what better gift could you possibly give?
“Making people feel valuable is different from making them feel felt or feel interesting, because you touch them in an even deeper way. When you make someone feel valuable, you’re telling the person, ‘You have a reason for being here…It makes a difference that you’re here.’ When you make people feel important, you give them a gift that’s beyond price.” - Mark Goulston in Just Listen