“I decided that my job was to listen aggressively.”

-Michael Abrashoff

Lessons from the US Navy’s Best Ship:

When he took command of the Navy’s worst ship, Captain Michael Abrashoff knew he had a monumental challenge. But by the end of his command he’d turned the USS Benfold into the best run ship in the navy. He did it with aggressive listening.

Aggressive Listening in Business Funny ImageYour business relationships hinge upon listening. We communicate in 3 ways. Our words, the literal meaning, make up 7% of our message. Our tone of voice accounts for 38%, and our body language makes up 55%. Most of the message isn’t verbal.

You can listen 2 ways. Passive listening, when you’re hearing the words but thinking about something else, tunes you out to everything but the verbal 7%. It’s doesn’t engage you, and you don’t learn anything from it.

Aggressive listening is treating every exchange like the most important one you’ll ever have. It’s focusing on all the ways that person is communicating with you and learning the most you can. It has the opportunity to turn hum-drum encounters into empowering lessons that you can build on.


Top 5 Ways to be an Aggressive Listener:

We’re not born good listeners. It’s a skill that we need to work at and refine. But if we make the effort to listen aggressively, we’ll have the opportunity to make every interactions we make more meaningful. Here are some tips:

  • Talk less, listen more. You already know what your opinions are; you’re not going to learn anything from repeating them. Listen closely to what is said, and you’ll be more likely to hear what isn’t said (and that’s the good stuff).
  • Don’t interrupt. Instead of waiting for the other person to take a breath so you can jump in, wait out the silences. They’ll eventually keep speaking and go into more detail, and you’ll learn more than you otherwise would have.
  • Block out distractions. Put your phone away, minimize your screen, and listen. Think more about what they’re saying than what you want to say, and you’ll better understand his or her position.
  • Talk face-to-face. If your email is longer than a paragraph, walk to their desk or, if you’re not close to them, call or video conference them. Emails omit tone, which makes them fairly useless to communicate anything other than simple facts.

Choose your Conversations. It’s hard to listen aggressively when conversations catch you off-guard or in the middle of another task. Try to plan the conversation so you can think of key questions you need answered before-hand and make the most of your time.