Just for a change this Christmas Eve we are treating ourselves to seeing It’s a Wonderful Life at the cinema on a big screen rather than getting the DVD out like we usually do. It will have added resonance given the state of the Co-operative Bank and others in recent times.

I read recently they are making a new version that will include the actress who played James Stewart’s daughter, the one with the cutesy voice that always makes me wince – “Daddy says that every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings”.

Enough of the schmaltz, this blog is about real listening rather than hearing bells.

What is real listening?

To listen is more than a skill, it’s a critical attitude. Real listening doesn’t always mean staying silent but talking in a different way in the spirit of enquiry, curiosity, and empathy. It involves giving up some control or power, some certainty, and assumptions.  It is a value set that says what the other person has to say and how they feel is as important as your own agenda.  You may disagree, but you acknowledge their position and in your response, you will factor in that element, otherwise, you’re saying they don’t matter enough to you.

Why is listening so important?

What can be unhelpful is when our unconscious biases, prejudices or values kick in and we make automatic assumptions without mentally challenging ourselves in that split second before we suffer that well-known affliction ‘foot in mouth’. Listening is about giving genuine attention to people and that makes them feel good.  They will like you more. We all love to be liked. And we want to work with people who make us feel good.

Test your listening

How much do you do the talking and others do the listening in your daily conversations? Do you find you talk more about yourself than asking about others? Try changing the balance and see what effect it has.

How do you develop listening?

Being more employable means dialogue rather than monologue.  It means

  1. Getting in the habit of testing your assumptions – ask more questions, make fewer statements. Hold back.
  2. Consciously entering into conversations with an open mind – about the other person or the issue in hand. Check your mood and biases.
  3. Focusing hard and remaining in the present moment – practice mindfulness, meditation, and take a yoga class. Hone your ability.

Quick thoughts on listening in your job search

The attitude we choose to bring with us influences the response of the other person. Take a listening attitude to your job search and you will understand job requirements better, gain more of the right knowledge and information, and build rapport with the people who can decide your future.

Continually check out your assumptions about people, companies, and job roles.

Listen to the advice of others – then listen to your head and heart to make your own decision (and then you’ll get your wings).