The Art of Listening

Leighann Robinson is a senior at NC State University and an Intern at Eckel & Vaughan.

Alert: I realize this is a cliché reminder to stop talking and start listening. But good lessons are worth hearing over and over.

Robert Solomon, an expert in account management and client service, reinforces this idea in his book The Art of Client Service. Solomon shares that the best presentation was one he “never made”—simply because he listened to his client, facilitating an open discussion and a “meeting of the minds.”

It’s a lesson that applies as much to our interpersonal relationships as our professional lives. Listening is an integral part of successful communication and relationship building. Solomon insists that meetings, presentations, and brainstorming sessions should never be a one-way street.

If you speak too often or over-advise, you run the risk of boxing out other people who are in the conversation. This may make them feel undervalued, and their opinion unappreciated. Listening more affords the opportunity to learn more, which will ultimately improve your work.


A friend asks, “I am looking for a new show to watch on Netflix. Any suggestions?”

Before you launch into an instantaneous rambling of your favorite series, instead take the opportunity to dig deeper, to find out more. Does this friend prefer comedy or drama? Crime shows or sitcoms? Documentaries or historical fiction?

That added knowledge will allow you to give more meaningful suggestions and advice, which could mean the difference between suggesting Orange Is The New Black and Making A Murderer.

Here are some key tips to be an effective listener:

1Limit distractions. Stop looking at your phone or laptop and truly listen to the person speaking.
2Make eye contact. It shows that you are engaged and will help validate the conversation. Accompany with other nonverbal signals, such as nodding your head.
3Focus on what they are saying, instead of what you are going to say next.

There’s a big difference between “hearing” and “listening.” Hearing is passive, listening is active. Hearing is impersonal, listening is deliberate. So make the decision to be an active, deliberate listener. Your conversations and relationships will benefit.

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