A better idea than my own is to listen. -Mark Twain
In my work with leaders, I often focus on Self-Awareness as the foundation of Emotional Intelligence. In other words, without recognizing and understanding our own emotions first, there is little we can do to be aware of the emotional climate around us.
How do we move from self-aware leaders to emotionally intelligent leaders?
In addition to Self-Awareness the three other dimensions of Emotional Intelligence, according to Daniel Goleman’s model are: Social-Awareness, Self-Management and Relationship-Management. Listening is the cornerstone of these three dimensions.
How to develop Social-Awareness through listening.
Stop talking. Often when we think of Social- Awareness we think of being social. The opposite is necessary to develop empathy which is instrumental to cultivating Social-Awareness. Research suggests the average person hears between 20,000 and 30,000 words during the course of a 24-hour period. That is a lot of information. Rather than adding to it, choose silence as the only way to truly Listen with the Will to Learn.
How to develop Self-Management through listening:
At one time or another, we have all fallen into the habit of sharing our own experiences in an effort to show others we are listening. Self-Control is instrumental in cultivating Self-Management. In a study conducted by Edison Research, they discovered that even though our ears are capable of picking up on so many words, our brain doesn’t process all of them. On average, people typically remember 17% to 25% of the things they hear. Pausing when we feel the urge to share our experience is more powerful than talking. Our experience is not relevant when we truly listen.
How to develop Relationship-Management through listening:
Building bonds with others is instrumental in cultivating the final dimension of Goleman’s model for Emotional Intelligence which he calls, Relationship-Management. When surveyed, many leaders quoted their ability to problem solve as the conduit for bonding with others. In fact, the very act of problem solving for others has been shown to damage relationships with peers and direct reports because they don’t feel heard. Many leaders feel burdened by the weight of the “world’s problems” on their shoulders. It is time to lift that weight because it isn’t effective. Emotionally intelligent leaders listen to understand and provide a sounding board for others to work toward solution. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t need to prescribe the solution and it fact it is detrimental if we do.
Are you ready to sign the permission slip?
I find it surprising that our words only convey about 7% of what we are trying to say. The other 93% is communicated through facial expressions and the tone of our voice.
As leaders, one of the biggest challenges, is in curbing the temptation to listen with the intent to reply which is, in fact, not listening at all. We all need to give ourselves permission to be quiet, silence our experience and expertise, and take a break from problem solving. Only then will we see transformation both in ourselves and in those we lead. It is from that place emotionally intelligent leaders emerge. I have heard people say that listening is a gift we give to others. My experience is that when I can truly silence and center myself in an effort to hear others, the gifts I receive are infinite.
Please contact me if you would like to receive a copy of an article from the New York Times titled, The Importance of Naming Your Emotions.