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  • Writer's pictureBarb Bickford

Listening Skills: The Power of Curious Listening

Updated: May 2

In an interview about important job skills for the next five years, Sun Kagami asserts that the most important skill is listening.*

A man in a suit coat, smiling and listening intently to another man.

Would you agree? I would!

And I'd add that listening is an important skill for everyone, not just paid workers. Listening skills are also vital for non-profit leaders, volunteers, family members and neighbors!

Ms. Kagami believes that being present and listening is "one of the most transformative, restorative, mobilizing and generative things you can do."

Her statement makes me wonder if my listening is that powerful. I do know that when others really listen to me, it has been transformative.

Here's a time someone's curious listening gave me hope:

It was a gray winter day in late February. Trudging from my college dorm toward the dining hall, I watched the hazy sun slip behind the bluffs west of campus.

I thought to myself, "I wonder if this is the last time I'll ever see the sunset."

I was tired. Tired of being tired. Tired of everything: the heaps of dirty snow, the smell of greasy dorm food, the stacks of homework, and that song my next-door dorm neighbor was so fond of.

In the cafeteria, I bumped into someone I didn't know well. He asked "How ARE you, Barb?" He invited me to eat with him. He asked open and insightful questions. As he listened, his hazel eyes twinkled and his nodding made his thick frizzy red hair bob.

His curious questions made me reconsider my depressed thoughts. I felt heard and I knew I mattered. I made it to the next sunset.

Such is the power of curious listening.

How has someone's listening helped you? Did it transform, restore or mobilize you or generate new thoughts? How might you offer listening as a gift to others?

* Source: The New Rules for Work project compiled these interviews about important job skills. Ms Kagami's interview starts at the 12:20 time stamp.


This is part 1 of a series of blog posts on listening:

In 2024, I'll be offering online workshops and courses to support learning to listen with curiosity, respect and humility. To be notified about courses and workshops and new blog posts, and to receive tips for improving your meetings and more, sign up for our news emails.

Photo credit: Jeneen Newcomb on Unsplash

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