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Business leaders are often excellent communicators. They can influence broad and diverse groups of people, and are generally able to convey their message with excellent clarity. Truly great leaders, however, realize that listening correctly is just as important as speaking well. In the same way that some people are better speakers than others, listening is an art unto itself.

As Lainie Hanighan says in this article,

“What’s not widely recognized is that what people hear is their own voice–not the voice of another. More often than not, your thoughts about what someone else is saying are what pass for listening. Radical listening, on the other hand, is the act of allowing the other person to express themselves completely, without interruption and without any preconceived notions on your part – with the intent to fully absorb and process what they are saying.”

It seems almost unnatural to shut off our inner voice, to actively work to be passive, but without focusing on this skill, we may not be able to achieve the remarkable benefits that come from true listening. Some of the barriers to “radical listening,” as Hanighan calls it, are a series of filters that we put up as people are talking. Examples include “Assessment,” in which we evaluate each thing the person says, or “Utility,” where each statement is measured based on its use to the listener.

Sound familiar? We use these filters every day, mostly without thinking about it. In order to truly listen, we have to consciously strip these away and try hear exactly what people are trying to convey. The resulting attitude can make people feel as if their opinions are valued, which can make them more open to listening in return.