Listening Is More Important Than You Think

A few nights ago I went out with a few friends of mine. We started off the night by going to Chipotle and ordering tacos, somewhat of a tradition we do. As we were talking more and more I began to realize a strange pattern that was forming. Everyone kept talking over one another and the topics never really got very deep.

I know, when guys hangout things don't get super emotional or anything but that doesn't mean the conversation can't go beyond the food we ate that week. When you break it down it really comes down to listening.This translates well into something I've been implemented into my work, especially when it comes to working with new people. For the context of this post I'm going to refer this style of listening as "active listening".

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”

Ernest Hemingway


What is active listening

Active listening goes beyond the realm of just listening, when you active listen you are taking in the information the other person is saying and processing it.

Some people are gonna say "that's impossible!", well it's not, and it can be learned with repetition. Active listening is a skill just like learning to play basketball, it takes practice.

Where most people go wrong

Most people listen half-heartedly, the words go in one ear and out the other. You can usually tell when someone is doing this when they give you a generic response like "you should leave him, he's not worth the time". A person that is actively listening would process the information and then respond with something thoughtful like "I understand he's acting like a jerk, and you know how you mentioned earlier that other guys were trying to talk with you? Well that means that you have way more value etc etc..". See the difference there? One is broad and doesn't have details, the other uses specific information that was said earlier.

How can this be used in my line of work?

Using active listening is crucial for all types of businesses, but let's focus on UI design. The best time to start is right at the beginning, during the very first email. Yes, you can active listen without hearing anything, the main point it to read into what the words mean behind their face value.

The most important time to active listen is during the first meeting. This is where all the key information lives, ready to be acquired but it takes an active listener to really get to the meat of the conversation.

So what you will do is;

  1. Listen to what the client is saying.
  2. Think about the meaning (what are they really trying to say).
  3. Repeat the real meaning in the conversation to convey that you an expert.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Stephen R. Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People