Stephen Covey’s Top 7 Tips for Listening Well

“Just as the deepest hunger of the human body is for air, the deepest hunger of the human soul is to be understood.” Stephen Covey

Whether you are mired in closed door negotiations over the value of a piece of property. . . interviewing a star agent who you want to join your team. . . sitting in the home of a seller during a listing appointment. . . or simply enjoying dinner with your spouse, listening to another person until he or she feels understood is the equivalent to giving that person air. . .

And could mean the difference between a successful or disastrous conversation.

On the average, studies show that 75 percent of our waking hours is spent in verbal communication: 30 percent in talking, 45 percent in listening.

But the average person is a “half-listener,” retaining only about 50 percent of what he or she hears immediately after it is heard.

And many people, while outwardly listening, are inwardly preparing a response. And this often is a reason that a lot of conversations fall apart mid course.

But good listeners, on the other hand. . . power negotiators. . . generally follow a consistent set of guidelines or skills, that allow them to hold together even some of the more volatile negotiations.

Some of these guidelines are listed below:

1. Good listeners use their thought speed to advantage. They constantly apply their spare thinking to what is being said:

  • Are the speaker’s facts accurate?
  • Do they come from an unprejudiced source?
  • What are the speaker’s motives?
  • What has the speaker left out?
  • Is the speaker dealing in facts or inferences?
  • Am I getting the full picture or only what will prove the speaker’s point?

2. Good listeners try to find something interesting in what is being said, something that can be used to help create a new idea or solution or be used in some other way.

  • What is the speaker saying that I need to know?
  • Is that really a practical idea?
  • Is the speaker reporting anything I don’t know?

3. Good listeners avoid getting too excited about a speaker’s point until they are certain they have heard it through and understand it.

4. Good listeners concentrate and instinctively fight distraction. They close a door, turn off the radio and interrupt only when it is necessary to clear up one point before proceeding to another.

5. Good listeners focus their attention on a central idea or theme. This helps them to remember the facts cited.

6. Good listeners restate and summarize the speaker’s point of view. They also look into the speaker’s face and maintain eye contact.

7. Good listeners enable the speaker to express what the speaker has in mind and thus make the speaker more able to give listeners the information they need.

[Adapted in part from Covey’s audio program Living the Seven Habits and the books The Power of Words, by Stuart Chase (possibly out of print?), and Are You Listening, by Ralph Nichols and Leonard Stevens.]

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