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What Is the Most Important Communication Skill to Acquire?

What Is the Most Important Communication Skill to Acquire?

This year I've had the opportunity to consult in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One particular company needed mission, vision, and values clarified, systems and processes developed, and team and staff development implemented. Sounds like straight forward tangibles doesn't it? It was only a matter of one week when the most evident need became apparent.


I initiated conversations with the business owner and each employee to begin the consulting process. This wasn't the kind of communication that taught them how to make information clear, or even effective communication processes using project management platforms such as Basecamp or TeamPM, or an inner-office communication tool such as Slack. It was the kind of communication that conveys respect, compassion, sincerity, develops leadership potential, creates a culture where employees experience being safe to express themselves, and trust is embedded in every conversation. . . communication that coaching training develops.

Stephen Covey says it perfectly:
Listening with the intent to understand. I mean seeking to understand, to really understand. It's an entirely different paradigm. Empathic listening gets inside another person's frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, and you understand how they feel.

In empathic listening, you listen with your ears, but you also, and more importantly, listen with your eyes and heart. You listen for feeling, for meaning. You listen for behavior. You listen with your right brain as well as your left. You sense, you intuit, you feel. You're dealing with the reality inside another person's head and heart. You're listening to understand. You're focused on receiving the deep communication of another human soul. 

Let's look briefly at the outcomes of listening as explained by Carl Rogers and Richard Farson:

Listening brings about changes in people’s attitudes toward themselves and others. People who have been listened to become more emotionally mature, more open to their experiences, less defensive, more democratic, and less authoritarian. When people are listened to, they tend to listen to themselves with more care and to make clear exactly what they are feeling and thinking. 

Listening reduces the threat of having one’s ideas criticized and the person is better able to see themselves for what they are because it is not a threat to the individual’s self-picture. The person does not have to defend it, but rather, is able to explore it, see it for what it is, and make his or her own decision about how realistic it is. And then, is in a position to change. 

Bottomline: Listening is one of the most important communication skills that we can acquire because it’s the primary way that we develop relationships, understand others, and build trust.

As time went on in the consulting process, I watched young men and women respond to being understood, listened to, valued, and respected. They held their heads higher, their voice took on a tone of confidence, their eagerness to learn increased, and their hidden abilities surfaced with enthusiasm. What influenced these results? The kind of listening that coach training develops called:

 Empathic Listening 

These results were certainly worthy of celebration, but something else was filling my thoughts: I genuinely believe that coaching is one of most effective and influential mindsets in the life of an organization and when it is woven into the conversations of leadership, supervisors, and teams, it develops a culture of strong trust, compassion, engaging collaboration, and highly creative innovation.

In-depth coach training can add another dimension of effectiveness to your leadership!

Mary is a leadership consultant who works with organizations to establish a culture of synergistic teams, systems and processes for greater employee engagement, employee loyalty, and communication effectiveness. She trains leaders to maximize leadership competencies, develop greater agility, and achieve leadership influence through communication excellence. 

Mary is President and Cofounder of the Center for Coaching Excellence, a distinctive training organization that focuses on developing highly competent coaches through a mentor-training approach and a training model of coaching that easily transitions into personal and professional conversations. Mary continues to expanded coaching into diverse industries by developing customized coach training for companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, and MJ Senior Housing.