If you aren’t already a relatively good listener, this post is not for you. You’ll be better off starting with the basics and coming back to this once you’re truly good at active listening and effective listening—hearing, checking for understanding, and caring about what the speaker says.
But if this list of good-listener traits describes you perfectly, then you’re already more advanced, and this next step (a quantum step) is going to fascinate you.
Up until now, you’ve been listening for content: what the other person says about a specific subject. Now that you’ve got that down, try listening for revelation: what the other person’s words actually say about them. This deeper level of listening will reveal insights about the speaker’s attributes or core traits and characteristics—things they probably don’t even know they’re revealing.
A great way to practice this is to watch interviews on TV. Instead of listening for content, listen for revelation.
A politician, for example, reveals volumes about himself when he says, “I gave X order today and X happened. I am proud of the results. And this is a great example of how I’m moving things forward.” Notice the use of “I” instead of “we” or “they.” This focus on self is a clear indicator of the power attribute. His words seem to say, “It’s all about me. Please notice me. See how well I’m doing.”
After you’ve practiced with faraway folks in the news, try taking this skill into your own life. Perhaps your friend confides in you with the following tone: “Janelle is hurting so much; my heart breaks for her. Her marriage has turned out badly, and she deserves better. I can feel her pain.” Notice how the speaker empathizes with Janelle, focusing on the other person and seeming to experience her very emotions second hand. This is an indication that your friend is strong in the relational attribute.
Of course, the idea here isn’t to ignore the content, but rather to tune into the deeper truths that the speaker is revealing about him or herself. The more you understand as you listen, the more you’ll grow as a supporter, manager, and leader.