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See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 23, Issue 5

How to Use Your Ears to Influence People

Listen up: being attentive to others' needs allows you to wield more influence



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We tend to think of smooth talkers as having the most influence on others. Although the gift of gab is indeed important, being a good listener provides even more of an advantage, according to new research.

In a study from the June Journal of Research in Personality, former work colleagues rated participants on measures of influence, verbal expression and listening behavior. Results indicate that good listening skills had a stronger effect on the ratings of influence than talking did. The authors suggest that listening helps people obtain information and build trust, both of which can increase influence. “Expressive communication has received the lion's share of attention in leadership work, but receptive behavior matters, too,” says study author Daniel Ames of Columbia University. The research also found that being good at both is better than being better at one or the other.

For those who wish for better listening skills, here are a few ways to do it well: don't zone out or interrupt; be open to alternative points of view; incorporate details that someone said previously into a current conversation. Basically, pay attention.

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