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Be a World-Class Listener: Feedback

This lesson is a part of an audio course Be a World-Class Listener by Ben Butina, Ph.D.

So far, you've learned about setting the right intentions, creating the right environment, listening (with your ears and your eyes) for content, emotion, and meaning, and responding verbally and non-verbally in ways that show you're listening and inviting the speaker to keep talking. It's a lot, right? If you're doing all of these things, you're becoming a better listener. But to cross the threshold from being very good to being world-class, you have to occasionally ask for feedback.

Asking for feedback can be uncomfortable, but to master any skill, feedback is crucial. If you were learning to speak Spanish, for example, you'd ask a native Spanish speaker for feedback, right? If you were learning to cook, you'd ask for feedback on the food you made. Getting feedback is essential for building any kind of skill, and that includes listening.

When you ask the people in your life for their feedback on your listening skills, two things happen. First, they're going to give you the feedback, which you can apply to improve your listening skills. Second, you're communicating to the other person that you're actively working to become a good listener.

Let's look at these one at a time. First, the value of the feedback itself. There is no one in the world who is a better judge of your listening skills than the person who is speaking to you. If they felt heard and understood, you know you're heading in the right direction. If they didn't, you'll find out why and learn how you can improve. Asking for their feedback is a win-win. If it's positive, great, keep doing what you're doing. If it's negative, that's great, too, because they can tell you exactly what you should do more or less of to improve.

The second benefit of asking for feedback is that it tells the other person that listening is important to you. When that person thinks about the people in their lives who are good listeners, you'll be at the top of the list because they know it's something you've made a priority. And when people think of you as a good listener, you reap all those benefits in your relationships, your work, and your life.

There are two times when you can ask for feedback, either immediately after a conversation or just out of the blue. The advantage of asking immediately after a conversation is that the other person is likely to remember specific things you did well or poorly from the conversation you just had. The advantage of asking out of the blue is that you're likely to get general feedback about how you're perceived as a listener.

There's no special trick to asking for feedback. It's as simple as saying, "Do you mind if I ask for your advice on something? I've been working on being a better listener, and I wanted your opinion on how I'm doing? What am I doing well, and what can I improve?"

Asking for feedback won't be easy for you, and giving feedback won't be easy for the other person, but it's worth doing if you truly want to improve. In our final lesson, we'll review everything we've learned and talk more about how to apply it.

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Written by

Ben Butina, Ph.D.

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