This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

There are five skills that are essential to trust-based relationships*. Listening is one of them.

Consider these truisms about listening:

  • Masterful listening can become natural and instinctive over time. It improves with deliberate effort, and offers greater rewards as you get better at it.
  • Without persistence, your listening is likely mediocre at best. And so are your relationships.
  • Masterful listeners place a specific and deliberate focus on the act of listening itself, recognizing that, to the person being listened to, the experience of being heard matters as much as any content that is shared or exchanged.
  • The best listening demonstrates your ability to listen with empathy. Being empathetic means listening underneath the surface, for the subtext as well as the text.

The payoff: masterful listening builds intimacy in your relationships, which is a critical component of building trust.

*The other skills are improvise, risk, partner, and know yourself.

Bonus: Making it Real

This week, practice everyday empathy.

Empathize with the grocery store clerk. And the drycleaner. And the newspaper vendor. And the babysitter. Why?

3 reasons:

(1) The stakes are low;
(2) The environment is target-rich;
(3) You will make a difference for someone.

Do this by first tuning in—in other words, pay attention to all the data you’re getting from another human being—then, try an empathetic turn of phrase.

In search of examples? Find out more about what Everyday Empathy sounds like.

Learn more


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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).