One of my favourite quotes is Epictetus’ “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
It is a timeless and incredibly powerful quote. The reason that I feel it is such a pivotal notion is that, without actively listening, it is virtually impossible to learn anything new or enhance yourself or others. To some people, knowing when to listen and when to speak is intuitive, whilst others want to assert their dominant voice, adding lots of colour and context, over and above what is necessary.
Sometimes it is better to know when to be quiet and soak up someone else’s view, because who knows, you might learn something? Less can often be so much more. A classroom of vocal children and a teacher drowning in noise isn’t going to be a conducive learning environment, is it? Similarly, a business meeting or a workshop smothered in a cacophony of opinions isn’t going to effectively drive towards the end goal.
Having the ability to take a step back, assess the options and gather a multitude of perspectives will form a far better overall picture in any industry, but especially in the world of Business Analysis, as, by virtue of being the conduit between technical experts and business stakeholders, a great deal of listening is involved at both ends.
The intriguing thing is that whilst listening is such a pivotal ability to have when working in the commercial space, it is probably the easiest skill to identify when someone isn’t good at it, particularly during an interview! Perhaps this is because, from a young age, we are ingrained with the belief that more is better? When we’re in an exam hall, scribbling away, we are just trying to fill time with words, but for what purpose? It becomes a box-ticking exercise, with insightful viewpoints often blurred by endless waffle.
Likewise, it is often perceived that the noisiest person in the room must be the most knowledgeable; or do they just like the sound of their own voice?
Being succinct and clinical is such an integral quality to have. If you’re a good listener, then you’re a good communicator and having better communication skills than someone else leads to better results.
So, next time you’re in an interview, whether you are trying to land a role or secure your perfect candidate (because it works both ways), take a breath and soak up what the person on the other side of the table is saying and react accordingly. It’ll set you apart. After all, the way you come across in an interview should be reflective of how you operate in a role, and communication skills are well and truly magnified in such a setting.
As a Business Analyst, what will differentiate you from the rest more than anything is how you articulate yourself. It’s not just about what you are saying, it’s how you are saying it – and how you are listening.
Remember: you have two ears and one mouth, so use them in that ratio!
If you’re looking for a new BA role or looking to hire a BA with fantastic listening skills, please feel free to get in contact.