Don’t Just Listen for Content

It was the ultimate in honesty.

I was on a Zoom meeting. We reached the point of discussing next steps. One participant said, “Excuse me, but could you repeat that? I wasn’t paying attention.”

We all laughed in recognition, having been in situations where our minds had wandered. More often than not, we don’t own up to taking that brief brain vacation — and hope no one finds us out.

There’s plenty of information out there on active listening, which also has the benefit of helping us pay attention when people speak. Here are the most common guidelines you’ll find:

  • Pay attention
  • Don’t be judgmental
  • Reflect
  • Clarify
  • Summarize
  • Share

But here’s the truth: a lot of times we’re listening for the wrong thing. This is the story of how a new business meeting that didn’t happen became a closed sale.

The simple act of listening for more than just the ideas someone is sharing — and then naming what you see — can make all the difference.

It’s true: sometimes we just zone out. When we’re lucky, people cut us some slack. But when the situation is important, go deeper to create connection — and see how much more successful you can become!

(Looking for other ways to up your listening skills? Check out this quick article, which includes my top 10 list of active listening techniques.)