Importance of Listening

Communication is not as simple as people make it appear to be. It requires focus and the whole cognitive faculty of the person to be able to communicate well and in a manner that is effective. Contrary to the common notion, communication is more than speaking, it includes listening with understanding. It is important to note that because not all gestures of listening, or the appearance that one is listening because he/she is quietly staring to the person speaking, are indeed listening. When truly listening, one’s mental faculties of processing thoughts and information are open to the verbal and non-verbal gestures of the one speaking. This is active listening. As one article writer has noted, in successful communication “the ability to listen is equally as important” as “the ability to speak well” (Staiano, 2007).

It is true that how well a person communicates can be seen through his daily conversations with those closest to him/her – spouses, children, or friends. Because people who are naturally close to the person are normally intimate to him/her, the tendency is that when having conversations with this group, there is no marked effort to listen attentively and to understand. The natural tendency rather is for the dialogue to be taken for granted. Since these people are no strangers to the person the exchange is always presumed to be well done. This is, however, not the case with others whose trust is yet to be established. To be able then to establish confidence with other people, active listening is a must.

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There are some important elements of active listening that good communicators possess. First is, listening intelligibly. When words and sentences are clear and could be reiterated, certainly the understanding is there, and the one party has communicated successfully and the other has listened well. To be able to hear is not the same as understanding the one who does the speaking. Another important element of active listening is concentration. Impatience and presumption are two powerful hindrances to effective listening. Because not all conversations are equally interesting, the need to improve listening skills is really a must to many. It will take a lot of labor to some, while acceptance of limitations in intelligence to others is the hindrance that must be dealt with constantly until it becomes almost instinctively part of the conscious mind (ibid).

Washington on Potential Leadership

Many great leaders in the past have been the subject of observation for students who are learning their virtues of leadership. One of those great leaders is George Washington. He has many sayings (110 rules) that exude wisdom and insights which can be applied to present day crises. Two of his aphorisms go: “In disciplining someone, do it with all sweetness and mildness,” and “When people put their effort into something that fails, don’t blame them for trying.” Leadership, if taken from the clues which can be gleaned just from Washington’s proverbs, is not about controlling people; it’s about putting one’s self into subjection or controlling one’s self. Furthermore, it is encouraging others to pursue good qualities in life – to persist in quest for the high ideals of life.

On controlling self, as he has shown it in his life, he said things like: “Speak seldom. . . never exceed a decent warmth, and submit your sentiments with diffidence.  A dictatorial style, though it may carry conviction, is always accompanied with disgust” (Brookhiser, 1996). Responding to Henrietta Lipton, wife of the British ambassador, who thought she could see pleasure on Washington’s countenance for retiring, he said: “You are wrong. My countenance never yet betrayed my feelings” (Ibid). Many of his words carry the same solid stance when it comes to holding one’s composure and it spread to his policies and reactions to different situations. It’s not one of bloated view of self but rather a noble perception of life and godly virtues that injected this character into his words and actions. There are also nuggets of wealth when it comes to insights about mentoring in his sayings. As could obviously be seen in quotes from him, it was one of the quality traits of his life to encourage people. Because he himself appreciates virtue, he was keen and immediately aware of them when he observed them in others. He advocated patience in dealing with those still at the stage of learning and encouraged to nurture persistence (Ibid).

Established Trust

~ For and Not Against. Of course, to establish trust, the first thing that must be ascertained is the atmosphere of friendliness. If the air is thick with hostility and resistance, it could easily be felt by anyone. On the other hand, when there is acceptance and interest in people, it radiates and the whole environment becomes attractive. When establishing trust, it is important that those being won would not feel threatened by those seeking to secure their trust. Prerequisite, therefore, to gaining this confidence is authentic sympathy of people.

~ The Golden Rule. The famous “Golden Rule” is common to almost major religions of the world. This means that it has a lot of sense to people around the world. To quote the exact words of the Bible, the saying goes: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12. NKJV, 1982)). There is deep affinity between people regardless of differences in background – race, color, and ethnicity. For sure, and it is basic that what one person wants in life in general is another person’s desire also. If one does not want another person to offend or do certain acts of aggression to him, definitely the same is true to the other one. If it is natural for any man to wish only good things for himself, then it follows that it is also the yearnings of anybody. The Golden Rule has a lot to do with establishing trust on someone. No one can fully win somebody’s trust if the Golden Rule is not the Rule of his/her life.

~ You Want Your People To Do Well. Who will not be attracted to a person, or a leader in particular, who within his agenda is the success of his people. In these days where society in general is steep in the game of politics, manipulation is so common that it has become an art to those in the leadership. One can hardly find a man in a position who does not know how to manipulate or use people for selfish motives and interests. However, although many have become cynical in outlook, there is a rising group of people – a new generation – who are so keen at spotting a controlling sort of a person. These got so accustomed to the ways and the means of a manipulator that it does not take long for them to shun the person. Qualities such as selfless service, generosity, and bearing up with others in difficult situations, are some of the assets which can build trust. If a person is genuinely interested and is after the success of others, the characteristics mentioned (selfless service, generosity, and patience) are not difficult to find.

Three Essentials For Success

The Three Essentials necessary for success are: 1.) competencies, 2.) alliance builder, and 3.) character or integrity. These three must go together for success to become a reality. Competence alone will make a man lonely. Also, one can develop his PR and can truly be an alliance builder but without integrity, everything will crumble to the ground. The reverse is also true: Integrity/character alone, or character with good PR (alliance builder) will not reach for anyone the ladder of success; although character, if possessed by a person and given enough time, will add the other two good qualities and accomplish in the end the so called success. There are many success stories represented in the lives of those being idolized nowadays. Common to most of them (most of them deceased) are the three essentials – they have competency, they are good alliance builder, and they have integrity. The problem in talking about achieving success is that most of the time that it is being talked about or discussed, the word “success” is not defined. For many people today, it may mean something like “becoming famous,” or “becoming rich,” or “becoming influential,” etc. But, are these descriptions really success? If they are, then it will not matter if the one in authority has no character. It does not matter whether he/she is corrupt or not. As long as wealth, fame, and influence describe a person, he or she is a success according to the descriptions mentioned. Success must include character, or else it isn’t success. ENRON Company, the Watergate scandal, and former President Clinton, are some of the proofs that integrity is crucial part of true success. It may be that many still view them as successful, (and this writer still does view them a success in some sense) but their lack of integrity at one point in their career caused the downfall of their otherwise still climbing reputation.