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Notes On: Power Listening
For a few months in 2020 I became obsessed with becoming a better listener. What led me to this obsession was that I kept on failing to build a great product and company and after some reflection I figured it was because I was a bad listener. If I had listened better to my customers then I would know what to build and what not to build. If I had listened better during recruiting efforts I would have spotted earlier that X person isn’t a good fit. And so on and so forth.
My favourite book on the topic was Power Listening, so I took notes! I figured I would share it with the world incase anyone else might be interested in this too.
The notes in italics are actionable insights I derived myself to ensure I put this theory into practice.
Excuse any typo’s in advance!
The book describes 6 Bad Listener Archetypes, they are as follows:
Only listening to others to see if their points confirm their own thinking or not.
They are listening, but not with an open mind
They focus a lot on things that confirm their thinking, and discard everything else
Conversation partners often feel intimidated
Signs of an "Opinionator" - they start sentences with "Listen" and end them with "right?"
To prevent being an "Opinionator" ask yourself the following before a conversation:
What opinions am I hoping to hear? Why? Write them down before the conversation. This will help make you aware of when you are over optimizing on a piece of information
Start with the belief that you know nothing. This will help you see all pieces of information as equal, and clarify any assumptions on both parties end.
Starts with the default position that the conversation partner's ideas are wrong/ always wrong.
It is a fight to convince them that your opinion is worth listening to
To prevent being a Grouch do the following before the conversation:
Assume the best in people
Assume they know more than you
Tell yourself "I trust this person"
If you find that you can't tell yourself that you trust this person and you truly don't believe they could ever know more than you, then you should probably let them go.
Asks questions with the fake intention of "listening". Rather they ask because they have a nice prepared answer they wish to share
Is more concerned with the intelligence of their answer/rebuttal than the conversation partner's answer
To prevent being a Preambler do the following:
Ask yourself why you are asking a question, if the answer is to present a "sophisticated argument" ask yourself why it is important the other party needs to hear it. If it is to show off your intelligence then don't ask it.
Ask yourself why you are asking a question, if the answer is to present a "sophisticated argument" ask yourself why it is important the other party needs to hear it. If it's because you feel it's an important opinion that needs to be considered / discussed then state your point as a stand alone argument you would like to discuss e.g I think X because of A,B,C. What are your thoughts? Once you have stated your points, assume you are wrong and listen to all parts of the response equally
Is focused on convincing themselves and others of their beliefs
Often doesn't directly answer questions, will usually add in a tangential point that further supports their own point
Is sharpening and/or editing their answer as they go along
Is not really having a conversation with their conversation party. They are really talking to themselves
To prevent being a Perseverator do the following:
Ask yourself what truths you are afraid of and why. Write them down. Approach the conversation as an open conversation, not a debate, therefore removing the need to defend your stance. At the end of the conversation you can privately address your fears and see if they are true.
Assume you are wrong and discuss these "truths" directly, without letting the other party know you are fearful of them. E.g What do you think is wrong about X and why? Assume you know nothing and listen to everything with equal intensity, with the aim of knowing and understanding their stance
If you know you have a stance you are passionate about/ have fears about then always stick to the questions, don't add tangential points.
Feels the need to show how smart and fast thinking they are
Has an answer/rebuttal for every question/feedback, often altering their answers
They are often thinking as they speak, hence the constant editing of answers
To prevent being an Answer Man do the following:
Ask yourself if you feel the need to impress the other person or other parties. If the answer is yes don't provide an answer until they have finished speaking.
If an answer comes to mind immediately, drop it and tell yourself "this is not a time to come up with solutions". Approach the conversation as though the person is venting and just wants to be listened to, rather than a person seeking a solution. At the end you can revisit the points stated.
Does not care about what the conversation partner has to say, but rather focuses on making them feel heard
Shows signs of listening such as finishing sentences, repeating what was said in different words etc. However never implements anything given to them.
To avoid being a pretender do the following:
Have direct conversations about your point of view and get them out of the way.
If you catch yourself not really listening ask yourself why that is, and then address them directly with your conversation partner.