The Law of Listening

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 25, 2020

By Michelle Tillis Lederman

As humans, we fundamentally want and need to be understood, and this applies to all realms of our lives, from the personal to the professional; however, being understood requires receptive listening on the other end. If we want others to understand us, we need to learn how to listen to and understand them. When building relationships, how you listen can be as important to what you have to say.

Listen to understand. If we want others to understand us, we have to understand them by truly listening to what they are communicating.

Harness the three levels of listening. Inward listening (level one) relates what you hear to you, and it helps establish commonalities and conversational ease. Outward listening (level two) relates what you hear to the speaker; it leverages the law of curiosity to uncover interests and perspectives. Listening intuitively (level three) is a powerful way to gain a deeper understanding of the situation and possibly even helps the speaker put order to ideas she hasn’t as yet  expressed verbally.

How you listen is key. To encourage communication and build meaningful connections, get off your pedestal and listen from other people’s perspectives; and don’t forget, sometimes good listening is done with your eyes as well as your ears.

Manage distractions. Articulate when you need to regain your focus (just say it!), jot down thoughts so that you won’t be distracted trying to remember them later, and if you are too exhausted to muster the energy to truly engage, postpone and reschedule.

Improve your listening. Take credit for the ways you already listen well, and note the areas where you can improve. Then set up a plan to work on those things.

Good listening is a win-win. Not only does listening well make people feel heard and understood, it enhances your experience of the situation and of the connection.

This article is excerpted, with permission of the publisher, from The 11 Laws of Likability by Michelle Tillis Lederman. Copyright 2011, Michelle Tillis Lederman. Published by AMACOM, a division of American Management Association.

About the Author(s)

Michelle Tillis Lederman is founder and CEO of Executive Essentials, which provides customized communication and leadership programs.