A World Without Racism Listens
How to be an Olympic Listener
Listening is an important skill to have for anyone and can be used in any environment. Fortunately, practicing good listening skills is a lot like working out or trying a new sport — the more you do it, the better you get at it. Anyone can develop the skills needed to become an Olympic listener! Making the shift from talking to listening can be difficult at first, but over time, it becomes easier and easier. The first step to becoming an active listener is giving your conversational partner space to talk. “‘We need to give people the space to talk,’ said Tania Israel, a psychology professor at the University of California. Something else that she pointed out in order to help us remember the importance of just listening is the fact that just by rearranging the letters in the word listen you can spell the word silent. Being silent while someone speaks invites them to share what they want to share and gives them space to speak out about what’s on their mind. Because comfort is a crucial part of a good conversation, becoming an Olympic listener can make you into an Olympic conversationalist!
After the groundwork of good listening is developed, there are other tools and strategies that can be added to your toolkit to take your listening skills to the next level. NPR suggests letting the person finish speaking before summarizing and adding on to what they have said. This is known as reflective listening and is incredibly effective. Asking questions, summarizing, and clarifying can make a better conversation, just make sure it is done in a timely and appropriate manner.
Becoming an Olympic listener means learning to focus on the other person more than on yourself. Most people struggle with this since most people are in conversations waiting and wondering what they should say next. That being said, asking good questions that further the conversation and have intention and meaning shows the other person that you are listening. According to the University of Utah Healthcare, “one of the biggest parts of feeling validated is when a person knows they’ve been heard and understood.” Practicing good active listening skills, such as restating the person’s statements in the form of a question, validates the other person and creates a better connection.
A good conversation should be cooperative, according to the Harvard Business Review. A good listener gives the other person the sense that they are trying to help them, not trying to compete with them. Good listeners also suggest ideas and offer alternative routes of action. Good listeners are tactful and make suggestions that are well placed and well-timed. Rather than simply waiting to speak, good listeners actively involve themselves and facilitate conversation through asking questions and providing feedback.
Developing elite listening skills offers tangible benefits at school, at home, and in the workplace. Leaders from all fields are often keen to develop outstanding listening skills because it allows them to work with others better and makes organizations run smoother. In an article on the North Carolina State University website, the author found that good leaders are often good listeners. In fact, Carl Ortell, the Chief Executive Officer of Holman Automotive Group, said in an interview that his executive coach told him that he should be an Olympic listener. “I thought that was so profound,” said Ortell. “Why didn’t someone tell me that when I was 25?” Good listening skills can transform your leadership skills and can connect you to other individuals. Learning these skills will make you into an Olympic listener!