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The Art of Effective Listening Skills: A Personal Journey to Better Influence

Have you ever had a moment when you realized your listening skills weren't as effective as you thought? I had such an eye-opener recently during a Zoom call with a business partner. As a newcomer to Zoom, I was rehearsing a 15-minute presentation, managing my own slides.


The challenge arose when it was time to hand back control to my partner. She instructed me to click on the ellipsis on her video stream to transfer control. Simple, right? Well, not quite. Despite several attempts, I couldn't find the option. Frustration was building on her end, and I couldn’t understand why the feature wasn’t there.


Then, in a moment of clarity, I finally followed her instructions exactly as she said – hover and click on the ellipsis on her video. And there it was, the option to transfer control. It dawned on me that she had mentioned this method twice before. Embarrassed, I realized I hadn't been listening properly. I was so focused on my own understanding of the platform that I missed her clear guidance.


This incident was more than just a technical hiccup; it was a learning moment in listening and influence. I wondered how this lapse might affect our budding professional relationship. Would she hesitate to trust me in the future, knowing that I might not listen effectively?


To prevent such instances and to enhance my influence, I've decided to adopt three key practices:

  1. Accountability in Listening: I’ll ask my colleagues to be upfront and let me know whenever they feel I’m not listening. A simple, “Hey Larry, are you really hearing me?” can be a great cue.

  2. No More Interrupting: It’s crucial to let others complete their thoughts without interjecting. This shows respect and ensures I fully grasp what they're saying.

  3. Paraphrasing for Clarity: I’ll repeat back what I’ve heard in my own words. This not only demonstrates active listening but also confirms my understanding of the discussion.

This experience underscored the importance of genuine listening – not just to respond or fix a problem, but to truly understand and connect. As leaders, our ability to influence is deeply rooted in how well we listen. It’s a skill we constantly need to hone.


So, next time you’re in a conversation, whether it's virtual or face-to-face, remember: effective listening is the gateway to influence and trust. Don't just wait for your turn to speak – truly listen. It might just turn a potential misunderstanding into a moment of connection and insight.



Colorful illustration of a person on a Zoom call, depicting effective listening skills

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