Have you ever wished someone a happy birthday and had them ask you, “How did you know today was my birthday?” Or, buy something you know a friend would like and have them ask you, “How did you know I would like this?” If you have experienced something like this, you were probably listening when no one expected you to be listening.
I know you are probably thinking to yourself, “I struggle to be listening when I am supposed to be listening, now you want me to listen when no one expects me to be listening?” Only if you want to increase your influence with others and engage them at a much deeper level.
Listening = Value
Listening to someone is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. When you genuinely listen to someone it generates a feeling of being valued in that person. Why is this? Well, when you listen to someone you are saying that you are more important that all the other things I could be doing right now. More important than my smartphone. More important than all the social apps that are calling out to me. More important than my email or my music. Even more important than my own desire for a moment of peace and quiet. I put you first.
Listen For What’s Not Being Said
If you really want to drive a deeper connection with the people in your circle of influence, then you need to develop the skill of listening for things that are meaningful to the person doing the talking. But what are you listening for?
I love to listen to see if I can determine:
- What are your values?
- What are your motives?
- What are some things that are important to you?
- What do you care most about?
- What makes you cry, laugh or sing?
- What are your special dates? (birthday, anniversaries, etc.)
Things like this come up all the time in casual conversations when we are distracted by our surroundings or the technology in our hands. When I hear any of these important things, I make a note of it. I used to just use my brain, but now I depend on Evernote or my digital address book. There is nothing better than surprising someone with an unexpected “Happy Birthday” showing that you cared enough to not only know it but remember it. They will often say, “I can’t believe you remembered!” Trust me, I stopped remembering stuff a long time ago, but as my kids often tell me when I talk about a challenge I am facing, “There’s and app for that!”
I used to struggle at Christmas and birthdays every year to figure out what gift I should buy my wife. When I began paying more attention and listening when she expected me not to be listening, I found more than a dozen times during the year where she would express interest in something or say, “I love that (trinket, dress, perfume, jewelry, book, etc.). I now have an Evernote folder called, “Wife-Gift Guide”. People reveal a lot about themselves if we are but willing to listen.