Becoming a Professional Listener     

4. What’s your intention?

Yesterday we talked about thinking about your listening. As a review, you should be planning prior to interaction, continually reassessing the utility of that plan and re-planning during conversation, and assessing whether the plan was the best after the conversation. Rinse and repeat.

Continuing that strategy, today you should focus on your listening intentions. An intention is a plan or purpose, a goal that propels you forward and directs your behavior. Intentions are important because they dictate how you will act toward others.

Begin each new interaction by saying to yourself, “I will listen to this person as if they were the most important thing in my life, as if they were the only thing that mattered right now.” If you are human, changes are you have become complacent – trying to get by with good enough when excellence in listening is the only way to be!

If you go into an interaction with the intention of fully attending to the other, you will. If you go in with an attitude of complacence or apathy, your listening will be more lethargic than legitimate – you won’t look like you care, and the other person will be less inclined to disclose, purchase, or otherwise want to continue talking to you (which, actually, might not be a bad thing sometimes!).

Most of the time, however, we are interacting with people who are important for some reason – our spouse needs a reassuring “you are capable” or our kid needs a heartfelt pick-me-up; our customer needs to know that you care about their needs and are not just trying to sell them as fast as you an. People buy from others they like, and they like others who listen to their needs, desires, and wishes. This is true whether you are selling yourself, your company, or your product.

Start to be an intentional listener – someone who has a plan and who strives to listen to their fullest in every interaction! Set goals and meet them then reassess your goals and create new ones. Work on your barriers, capitalize on your strengths, and improve on your weaknesses. Seek out opportunities and put yourself in situations that minimize threats. Be intentional and get results!

As the fourth of five lessons this week, it is a good time to reflect – are you overcoming barriers or learning to deal with the ones that will continue to be struggles? Are you adding strengths and learning to limit threats that stem from weaknesses? Are you thinking before you speak? And, now, do you have the right intention?

I have created a self-directed worksheet that helps you assess your general listening tendencies (what intentions do you normally pursue). There is also extended explanation of four "styles" of listening and an activity to help situate the appropriateness of each. Enjoy!

Listening Intentions Activity