Listening for the Gold

In my last few blog posts, I said that the phenomenon of listening consists of only two components:

1. Who do you have your attention on?

2. What’s your internal conversation?

I further said that if you want to be a really effective listener, just give the other person your undivided attention. Period. Have your internal conversation be something like: how are we both going to win here and work together.

Actually, there’s an even more powerful way to manage your internal conversation. The point is best made by telling you a story I heard Zig Ziglar tell many years ago:

Over a hundred years ago, Andrew Carnegie, the first great American industrialist, had many millionaires working for him. One day, a newspaper reporter was interviewing Mr. Carnegie and asked him how he got so many millionaires to come to work for him?

Carnegie answered: “I guarantee you, none of them were millionaires when they came to work for me.

Now being really intrigued, the newspaper reporter asked Carnegie how he was able to develop these people so that they became so valuable he could afford to pay them enough that they would become millionaires.

Carnegie’s answer was that developing people is like mining for gold. When you go into a gold mine, you expect to take out a ton of dirt for every ounce of gold. But you go into the mine looking for the gold not the dirt.

So that is an unbelievably powerful way to listen. Listen for the gold. Inside of every human being is a bar of solid gold. I know it doesn’t often look that way but that is the truth. What you often see that you don’t like is people’s behavior, but that’s just how they are behaving, not who they are.

Who people are and how they behave are separate and distinct. If you understand that distinction and train yourself to always listen for the gold, you will be far more powerful than you can now imagine in dealing with those unacceptable behaviors.

Try it. It works. And you’ll be a lot happier and nicer person too.