I don’t know about you, but most people are good at talking to others and not good at listening. There is an old, yet true leadership advice: to become more influential (hence a better leader, a better parent, a better sales person), start talking less and listening more.
I want to take this a step further: Most people listen too much to themselves and talk too much to others. What do I mean by this? Well, we all listen constantly to our own stories and beliefs that are rooted in our past. This hardwiring in our brain is a survival mechanism, but here comes the twist: It prevents us from growing, and if we talk too much to others instead of listening, it makes it even worse.
Here’s my suggestion: listen less to yourself and more to others. And: talk less to others and more to yourself.
“Talking to yourself” means that you consciously choose the thoughts that you want to guide your decisions and actions. As this sounds a bit theoretical, here are three powerful examples that you can use to transform your team and consequently improve their performance:
- Instead of listening to your story “I’m not a good sales person,” tell yourself: “I will persuade the next prospect to buy our great product, and if not the next, then the one after. Because I know that all sales can be learned, and I am a good learner!” Do you see the difference?
- Instead of listening to your mind stating a problem over and over and amplifying it, ask yourself these simple questions: “How important is this problem, really?” And if it really is important: “What would be ways to solve it?” This sounds so amazingly simple that I’m constantly amazed how business people can spend hours to elaborate on problems that are minor instead of asking these questions. Do you sometimes fall into this trap? Look at yourself and be honest.
- Instead of listening to your story, like “if she does this then it always means that,” tell yourself: “what other meanings can I attach to her behavior or to the situation?” Then come up with at least three other possible explanations. Believe me, in most cases, these other meanings are more accurate than your deeply imprinted one that you have listened over and over again.
By the way, it will be quite uncomfortable at the beginning to stop listening to your old thoughts and tell yourself a different story. Also, it helps to speak it out loud to yourself (if no-one is listening).