We can process language at 300 to 500 words per minute; however, most people speak around 100 words per minute. The extra brain capacity makes it difficult to manage our attention: Listening is difficult. It’s a discipline and a skill and those who have it are more likely to conduct influence, to persuade, and negotiate successfully. Here’s why you need to, and how you can: gain influence by listening.
Gaining and retaining influence will forever be a vital component of leadership and this Idea shows that listening has a positive association with influence, over and above verbal expression.
"We can process language at 300 to 500 words per minute; however, most people speak around 100 words per minute. The extra capacity makes it difficult to manage our attention: we get distracted."
Data was collected from 274 students enrolled in an MBA program, in which as part of their course requirement, participants were rated on a variety of dimensions by several former co-workers. Those co-workers were asked to assess the students’ skills and habits, with questions measuring how influential the students were, such as whether they were able to persuade others, direct meetings, and turn conversations in their favour. They were also asked to evaluate the students on expressive communication, and asked how skilled the students were as listeners.
The results were as follows: firstly, people’s listening tendencies are positively related to influence, over and above the impact of verbal expression. Secondly, in addition to their main effects, listening and verbal expression interact, such that the positive relationship between listening and influence is shown more strongly by those higher in verbal expression. Finally, listening partly mediates the relationships between each of openness and agreeableness and influence.
Good listeners are better communicators, and good communicators make better leaders.
Though there are no real secrets to being a better listener, as with any discipline or skill, there are behaviours that you can take efforts to change. As such, here are a few suggestions for influential listening:
The Role of Listening in Interpersonal Influence. Daniel Ames, Lily Benjamin Maissen & Joel Brockner. Journal of Research in Personality (February 2012). DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2012.01.010
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