Take The Good Listener Test

african american business man with his hand to his ear listening
By Holly Buchanan

2 minutes

Four steps, three questions.

Are you a good listener? Are you sure? Almost all of us consider ourselves to be good listeners. But would others agree with that assessment?

I do a lot of work with executives on understanding their blind spots. We uncover disconnects between how they see themselves and how others see them.

Almost every executive believes he or she is a good listener. And yet this is often one of their biggest blind spots. Outside feedback is crucial. The problem is, if you ask a colleague if you are a good listener, chances are excellent he or she would say yes. If you want the real answer, you need to ask slightly different questions.

Four Steps

Step #1 - Find a female colleague, friend, or spouse. (You can do this test with several people. A good place to start is with a woman. Why? Research has shown differences in how men and women listen. Women may expect you to listen more closely.)

Step #2 - Tell her you want to improve your listening skills.

Step #3 - Give her permission to be completely honest.

Step #4 - Ask her the following three questions:

  1. What if when you came to me with any questions or concerns, I listened intently, made eye contact and understood that what you were saying was important?
  2. What if I didn’t offer a solution until you’d fully articulated the problem and were done talking? I wouldn’t chime in or interrupt.
  3. What if when you are talking to me, I did not let other things take importance over what you are saying? No checking my phone or fidgeting or looking over your shoulder.

Follow that up with: “Could I do a better job on any of the three listening skills? If I did, would that improve how we work together?”

By asking these specific questions you can get direct feedback on your listening skills. This is also an opportunity to give someone permission to have an open discussion with you.

I’ve heard back from many managers who say they received surprising and valuable feedback by asking these questions. Simply asking the questions shows your intent to be not only a better listener, but a better leader. And that alone makes it worth taking the good listener test.

Take the challenge right now. Let me know how it goes.

Holly Buchanan is a popular writer and speaker. Author of Selling Financial Services to Women-What Men Need to Know and Even Women Will Be Surprised to Learn, she works with the financial industry on delivering what today's customers and employees really want.

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