This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

Most everyone in business knows the importance of listening and most would agree they still have room to improve.

The kind of listening that engenders deep trust and promotes real relationships—empathetic listening—is not the usual, every-day listening. It requires that we pay very close attention. And most of us aren’t very good at that.

Consider these four barriers to paying attention.

  1. A habit of talking—listening as waiting for the other person to stop talking so that you can talk some more.
  2. Everyday distractions—disruptions that challenge your ability to focus and be present.
  3. A fear of intimacy—a concern that if you really listen to someone so they feel truly at ease with you, they might really open up.
  4. The little internal voice—the constant companion that clogs your brain with incessant chatter.

Which one(s) do you succumb to the most?

Bonus: Making it Real

This week, choose one of the four barriers to paying attention and experiment with ways to remove it. Or at least minimize it.

Find one small change you could make, and make it. For example, if you have a habit of talking, employ a practice like counting to three or taking a deep breath before you interject in a conversation. If you succumb to everyday distractions, turn off all the alerts on your devices that pull your attention away from your task, or declare blocks of time in your calendar for uninterrupted work. If you have a fear of intimacy, practice being empathetic in all your interactions. Or if your little internal voice is a persistent interrupter, practice noticing it and bringing your attention back to the task or conversation at hand.

Note what differences it makes—for you and for your relationships.

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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).