The most important communication skill that the gurus don’t talk about

It’s not speaking or presentation (with an emphasis on “pre”) skills despite the millions of dollars corporates and individuals alike shell out to get trained on it. Heck, there are gurus who make a living by speaking and creating information products on “speaking and presenting better” every year!

But I’m digressing here. I believe the most important communication skill that nobody’s talking about is listening. And there aren’t many (or perhaps, any!) products that will help you becoming a better listener. Yes, we’ve heard and read a lot about active listening but there’s more to it than just parroting back what one is saying.

Honestly, that’s a shame given that listening is one of the key skills that a leader can have. One of the biggest regrets of leaders and leadership is their failure to communicate and that’s not due to their speaking or writing skills but a lack of understanding. And you can’t understand people if you don’t have the ability to listen deeply. Chances are you already know that first hand from your relationships, don’t you?

A decade back I heard my better half say, “Sunil, you’re not listening.” She was right. Worried that I was headed to a path of total destruction I decided to get a grip on the situation. I chose to work hard on not just superficial listening (aka, “active” listening) but deep listening. And boy, was it challenging? It took me a long time to get to a level when I started to observe the changes. From my relationships to leadership to my work as an executive coach, I noticed that I wasn’t just communicating better but also connecting with them at a much deeper level.

Here’s the best part — I didn’t have to shell out a lot to learn this life changing skill. Most information out there were generic and didn’t add value. Not many people were teaching it back then and not many are even today! Among the many books I referred the two that stood out and helped me transition from a mediocre to a (way) much better listener were John Maxwell’s Becoming a Person of Influence and Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. I highly recommend anyone seeking to change and/or enhance their communication skills (listening in particular) to study these books and experience the transformation.

I hope you’re listening.

P.S. Not that anything’s wrong with that but what could you possibly discover in a year that’s worth shelling out another $199 on your new “masterclass”? Of course, there are awesome presentation trainers out there who produce world-class content every year. I personally know some who’ve produced 3-5 solid products across as many years and now they’re in the process of recycling each one of them as a version 2.0 with almost 40 to 50% new content. Now, that’s valuable.

P.P.S. Shameless plug: there’s a mastermind group study that I host every quarter on Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. It spans 10 weeks and is totally free but limited to 8 seats. Reach out to me if this interests you.

By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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