Skip to main content

The Power of Listening

The Power of Listening

Most of us think we're great listeners. Unfortunately, the reality is that we tend to overestimate our abilities.

In fact, I've personally noticed that if my driving skills are anything like my day-to-day listening skills, I'd need a driving school refresher course.

At least I know I'm not alone in having trouble absorbing information: Experts have found that people tend to recall only between 17% to 25% of the things they hear.

Unsurprisingly, the stakes are higher, in the form of costly communication breakdowns and inefficiencies, when people in business fail to hear and understand each other.

When everyone is on the same page, however, good things happen.

For example, we recently wrapped up a CFO search for a PE-backed marine services company where both the investor and the portfolio executive leadership were actively involved in the search process.

We had great communication between all parties, and everyone added value along the way throughout the search.

Our client was also committed to a process that included detailed client intake, weekly cadence calls that were centered around collaboration, and communication between all parties.

It was clear we had a shared responsibility to ensure the search was successful—and everyone was ready and willing to work together toward a common goal.

If you find yourself in a situation where you can sense your listening skills faltering, here are some things I've found useful to get back on track.

Don't be afraid to reschedule important conversations.

Timing is everything in communication.

If you've landed in a post-lunch or mid-afternoon energy lull—or simply find yourself with reduced concentration due to stress—don't hesitate to explain to someone that you’d rather schedule a more suitable time to talk, so you can give them your undivided attention.

Observe body language and non-verbal cues.

You might be surprised to learn that your words only convey about 7% of what you're trying to say.

The other 93% is communicated through facial expressions and the tone of your voice.

In conversation, read someone's body, not their mind, and watch for cues in physical gestures, facial expressions and eye movement.

Remember: patience is everything.

When we have exciting ideas or points to make, we naturally want to share them right away.

But before sharing an opinion, take a deep breath and let the other person finish their thoughts first.

Giving your conversation partner space to share conveys confidence in them, and shows you value their thoughts.

Keep in mind that listening is a two-way street.

Being a good listener starts with empathy and understanding someone else's perspective.

In fact, when in discussion, reinforce what you've heard by summarizing their words and repeating them back.

Don't forget that listening at its core is an active process—and hearing someone as opposed to listening to them are two very different things. 

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


Continue learning with this Ellevate Playbook:

Community Discussion

Log In to Comment Join Ellevate

Jenny Hedderman, Esq.

Great article Heather! such important stats and reminders!

January 7, 2020

Start your day off with The Morning Boost, our daily newsletter with everything you need to take your career to the next level – all from members of the Ellevate community.

By sharing your email you agree to our Terms of Use & Privacy Policy

By sharing your email you agree to our Terms of Use & Privacy Policy


Thank you! Career advice and opportunities are on the way to your inbox.

Add your zip code, so we can invite you to our local events!