By Kassondra Burtis ’12
When Leslie Shore M’00 was doing her thesis research, there’s one thing she realized we can all do better—listen.
“Communication is the key not just to success, but to any kind of relationship,” Shore said. “Listening is at the foundation of that.”
Shore had discovered that in all of the books she has read on communication, less than 10% of them focused on listening. She knew that this largely unexplored area was something she wanted to delve into with her thesis research while she was as a student in Saint Mary’s M.A. in Human Development program back in 2000.
That same research has now led to a successful self-help book titled Listen to Succeed: How to identify and overcome barriers to effective listening”—as well as numerous interviews and guest lectures across the U.S.
Shore is also the owner of Listen to Succeed, a consultancy business located in St. Paul that focuses on using listening analytics to help individuals, teams, and organizations achieve their highest level of effective communication.
Shore credits the flexible structure of the Human Development program at Saint Mary’s and her program director for supporting and encouraging her research vision. “The program allowed me to take my communication studies in a new direction,” she said. “It allowed me to do my research and assessments in the way that would best help me and my goals. The learning I was able to do in the program would not have happened in a normal communication master’s level program.”
For her research, Shore based her understanding of successful listening on her own family’s interactions. “I realized that I grew up in a family that had a high level of communication and a low level of conflict,” Shore said. “My grandmother had a knack for listening to others. They puffed up in her presence and felt valued and heard. Thinking about how my grandmother was an effective listener, I wanted to figure out how exactly that fit into everyday communication.”
Part of successful listening is watching body language and facial expressions, she said, adding that “What’s really important is your word choice when speaking, listening, and observing the person you’re talking with to see if your words landed. It may be clear to you, but clear as mud to the person on the other side.”
While attending Saint Mary’s, Shore uncovered eight major barriers that may stand in the way of effective listening, and from that she created a listening assessment which accurately measures these barriers. “I’ve used this assessment for about 10 years during workshops and my work with nonprofits,” she said. “There was a counselor who finished taking the assessment and said, ‘I don’t like the results I got, but they’re right.’”
After years of additional study and sharing her findings through workshops, Shore decided she wanted to pass along her message to a wider audience.
Shore began gathering her thesis research and information she has shared in her workshop presentations, which proved to be challenging. “What I had been saying in my seminars about the value of effective listening, how it affects a person’s self esteem, the dynamic of a team or company when you listen to others—I was saying all of that in my seminars but wasn’t writing any of it down.”
After a couple of years of transcribing, writing, editing, and illustrating, Shore said the end result was “worth every second.”
She hopes that Listen to Succeed will encourage its readers to reassess the way they communicate. “My hope is that they will push aside any preconceptions of communication and recognize that listening is the way to create relationships, allow themselves to take in this information and—as a result of that—their personal and business relationships will automatically be richer, deeper, and more effective.”