Why are we careful not to say anything ‘bad’ around a young child? Because they are very, very good listeners! To them, listening is power; it is how they learn and grow.
Hey, wait a minute, weren’t we all three-year-olds at one time? Therefore, we all have the potential to be really good listeners!
What happened in between?
I think one of the biggest challenges to good listening is the cognitive biases we develop as we grow into adults. One of the biases that contradicts good listening is ‘confirmation bias’.
We adults have a natural tendency to listen for anything that confirms a point of view or behavior we already hold in mind. For example, if you believe it is hard to find good employees, your brain will naturally look for situations to confirm that belief. When you hire and then fire an employee in the same day, your brain says, “See, it is hard to find good employees!” It will ignore the fact you hired two great people previously.
A three-year-old isn’t so set in their ways. They are looking to learn and grow from listening to the adults around them.
Based on this information, the best way to become a better listener is to act more like a three-year-old. That means you have to override your natural tendency to confirm your current beliefs and points of view. It also means less talking than listening. You need to resist the tendency to argue the points that confirm your point of view.
If you don’t believe me, just watch a master at work. Watch a three-year-old listen intently to an adult who is doing most of the talking. Then notice how the three-year-old harnesses the power of that listening to get what they wanted!