- Flickr/Leo Hidalgo
In American culture, we tend to associate being the loudest voice in the room with power, control, and confidence.
We see it everywhere – bosses shouting in boardrooms, politicians interrupting and talking over their rivals, and even children asserting dominance over peers on the basis of who is loudest or most outspoken.
While vocalization is obviously an essential component of establishing power and confidence, what’s often lost when so much emphasis is placed on outward projection alone is the importance of listening.
The best communicators are not only skilled at articulating their own thoughts, they’re also excellent listeners.
According to the International Listening Association, an organization that works to advance the practice, teaching, and research of listening and effective listening skills throughout the world, confident individuals listen to message content better than individuals who lack confidence.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Tennessee on the role of listening in professional environments found that listening accounts for approximately one third of the characteristics people use to evaluate communication competence in co-workers. The same study also found individual performance in a job to be directly related to listening ability or perceived listening effectiveness.
Listening is one of the top skills employers seek in both entry-level employees and employees being promoted, according to another study on the role of listening in business.
Lillian Glass, a body language expert and author of “The Body Language Advantage,” says everyone can benefit from honing their listening skills, and explains the best strategy for people who want to appear confident and powerful in conversation is to pay attention to their body language and focus on the person or people they’re engaged with, rather than worrying about how others perceive them.
“The bottom line is be interested, not interesting,” she says. “Be more focused on the other person and what message is being communicated than focused on yourself and your self-consciousness.”
According to “Silent Messages: Implicit Communication of Emotions and Attitudes,” when we deliver a message, 55% of what we say is communicated non-verbally, 38% by the tone of our voice, and just 7% by the actual words we use.
Be aware of your body language when you’re speaking to someone, and utilize it to become a better listener.
Maintain even eye contact, display a neutral or pleasant facial expression, and mirror the other person’s movements and positioning. Lean in as they speak, never cross your arms, and nod throughout conversation to show you’re listening.
If you can remember these simple tips, you’ll appear a more engaged and interested listener.