The Only Listening Skills You’ll Ever Need to Know

“We have two ears and only one tongue in order that we may hear more and speak less.” ― Diogenes Laërtius

Two months ago I was in Munich leaving for Paris, and was minutes late before the gate closed on me. Panicking, I calmly tried to explain the situation to one of the ticketing officers.

I could not believe how difficult it was to get a word in with this person, when their only job was to listen and solve my problem.

I was only left more frustrated and remained stuck in Munich without a solution. For the sake of protecting the company’s brand, I won’t mention what airline it was, but it’s safe to say I won’t be flying with them again.

Want to know a key secret to succeeding in relationships with your friends, family, co-workers, and anyone you will ever meet from this moment on?

It’s the first thing we did when we were born, and the most powerful listening skills that will create an instant connection with anyone you meet.

It’s to shut up and listen.


Hearing vs. Listening

Few people truly understand the art of listening, but those that do will have a huge competitive advantage in their personal and professional lives.

Now take this moment to reflect on the conversations you have with your friends, co-workers, and partner(s). Who’s doing most of the talking?

If it’s you, then keep reading. If it’s not … then keep reading.


With the advent of smartphones and constant notifications, it’s no surprise that the younger generations have a difficult time giving their undivided attention to listen to someone.

Studies show that less than 2% of professionals have had formal education on how to listen. We listen at 125-250 words per minute, but think at 1,000-3,000 words per minute.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ― Stephen R. Covey

The point of having a conversation with anyone is to connect and understand each other, which in turn will help us find the common ground to understand ourselves.

The truth is, most of us are hearing to respond, when we should be listening to understand.


Information is Power

In today’s day and age, information is power and a competitive advantage. Why not spend your time acquiring more of it?

We should be spending our time learning from others, because everyone has something they can teach us— no matter who they are or where they come from.

When’s the last time you learned a valuable lesson by talking until your jaws cramped?

Now you may be wondering, what’s the appropriate breakdown of talking vs listening? I follow the 80/20 rule, much like most of my breakdowns.

This means:
when you’re on a date: listen 80%, and talk 20% of the time
when you’re in a meeting: listen 80%, and talk 20% of the time
when you’re at a networking event: listen 80%, and talk 20% of the time.

I can’t stress how powerful this is to developing a strong relationship with anyone you meet.

Rule of thumb: unless you have earned the right to share your thoughts, such as your close friends, family, or a mentee. Stop talking and listen.

Hear to be Heard

Let’s face it. We all want to heard. It’s a basic human need.

Have you met someone that felt like they understood everything you were saying and made you feel like you were the only person in the room?

They were simply nodding their head, reiterating what you already said, and sharing a personal story that seemed remarkably similar to yours. In fact, there was probably less than 50 words that came out of their mouth during the entire conversation.

Yet for some reason, you walked out of that conversation with a heightened perception of that person’s intelligence, connection, and social skills.

Why? It’s simple. They genuinely cared. 

They asked questions that pushed you below the surface level of the everyday small talk, and they shared a similarity to you that caused an interpersonal attraction. 

“A person only likes his friend to the degree he relates and connects to his character.” ― Anuj Somany


I’m not saying all of this is easy. The art of listening is a mastery in itself, but it’s an art that any aspiring leader needs to craft in order to lead a tribe.

If there’s one thing that I want you to take away from today, remember this.

While some may be impressed with how well you speak, the people that actually matter care about how well you listen.

Wherever you are, there will always be someone else that has lived more, led longer, prayed harder, or loved deeper.

Open up your ears to the world, put yourself in the shoes of the person in front of you, and for god sakes put away that damn Smartphone.

LISTEN and SILENT have the same letters for a reason.
It’s up to you to put them together.

Thanks for getting to the end of the article guys, you’ve done what 50% of those reading this weren’t able to to!

Do you have any similar stories that you can share?
I read and respond to every single comment, so would love to hear your thoughts!


  • Melissa
    Great point, Sean! Listening is a skill I've been trying to improve for a while - I think I'm just now starting to see the results.
    • I'm with you Melissa. It's a skill that constantly needs to be worked on. Thanks for sharing.
  • Val Lefebvre
    I personally have to put up a lot of effort to work on this particular point. It's tough to simply not speak, and then it's not so simple to correctly listen to what others have to say, let alone really understand what they are saying... truly. What I have discovered though, so far, is that the ability to listen well (let the others speak and get what they have to say) is really a great strength to have! Thanks for this article Sean. Always great to read!
  • I'm really inspired together with your writin talents as smartly as with the format for your blog. Is this a paid topic or did you customize iit yourself? Anyway kkeep up the nice high quality writing, it is rare to peer a great blog like this onne today..
  • Hubert77
    Great article! What about the people who do not want to talk because they are afraid of what we would think about them? How to encourage them?
    • Thanks Hubert, that means a lot :) The best way to approach this type of situation is to take the lead. Share something personal about yourself that may make you feel vulnerable. The other person is going to feel that you're opening up to them and will be more likely to let their guard down and reciprocate by sharing something personal about themselves. It may take some time initially, but the more honest and open you are to the person you're talking to, the deeper relationship you build over time, and the more open and comfortable the other person will be around you as well. Best of luck with this!
  • […] connection and listening is understanding. Sean Kim at Growth List emphasizes this distinction, explaining that, “The truth is, most of us are hearing to respond, when we should be listening to understand.” […]

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