The Art of Being an Effective Listener

I gave a presentation to a group of eight CEO’s yesterday and one to a similar group of ten today. In both cases, I asked the attendees if it ever happened that they had a conversation with another and walked away feeling they had been talking to the wall. With a few laughs, they all said “yes.”

I then asked the tougher question: how many of you are willing to acknowledge that there probably are times that people have conversations with you and they walk away feeling like they had been talking to the wall. Pretty much all of them sheepishly acknowledged that that probably occurs all too frequently.

What a sad state of affairs, that we are mostly not very good listeners. And it has an enormous impact in every area of our lives. Why? Because whether it’s at home or at work, everything we do involves other people and our effectiveness in creating meaningful, intimate, quality relationships is directly a function of our effectiveness as a listener.

What is almost comical about all of this is that listening is really quite a simple phenomenon and it’s not all that difficult to become a really terrific listener. And, again, if you become a terrific listener, it will positively impact every relationship in your life.

Here’s the reality: the phenomenon of listening consists of two and only two components:

1. Who do you have your attention on?

2. What’s your internal conversation?

If you want to read about this in detail, get yourself a copy of my book at For now, if you want to be an ineffective listener, go through life with your attention on yourself, and allow your internal conversation to be something like: get to the point, what am I going to say next, do I agree with you or not, let me try and figure out what you’re going to say and I’ll say it for you, do I agree with you or not, am I going to win or lose, and many more.

If you want to be a really effective listener, just give the other person your undivided attention. Period. Forget all this nonsense about active listening, whatever that means, eye contact, body language, and the rest. Just give the other person, whoever it is, your undivided attention. Have your internal conversation be something like: how are we both going to win here and work together.

All 18 of the CEO’s said they never heard this before and oh how wonderful it would have been had they heard this a long time ago. So now you’ve heard it so you have no excuse for not being a really effective listener.

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