Twice in the past few months I have written newspaper articles about listening intently to others. It may help land you a job (according to my first article) or make you into a charismatic leader (according to the second).
Listening without thinking of what you’re going to say next is critical even in a job interview, though the temptation is to start formulating a response in your head as the interviewer is speaking. “Active listening,” even above oratory skills, is also a characteristic that sets charismatic people apart. As communications specialists described to me what “active listening” entails (sustained eye contact; responsive and engaging facial expressions; drawing people out), I immediately thought of a PSA for UNICEF co-starring former President Bill Clinton. The co-starring part is important because good listeners (and people widely regarded as charismatic) don’t steal the spotlight. On the contrary, when interacting with others they listen intently and communicate nonverbally at the same time, demonstrating genuine interest and rapt attention through subtle body language. Like him or not, this is how Clinton operates. One source told me that people who converse one-on-one with Clinton, however briefly, are made to feel like they’re the only other person in the room. Another source said he makes you feel like the only other person on the PLANET.
The UNISEF PSA demonstrates all of the above. This is some spooky-intense listening on display. DUDE. IS. AMAZING. And Clinton’s interlocutor absolutely lights up in his presence. This is all the more amazing because his co-star is a Muppet.
This doesn’t make me question Slick Willy’s sincerity in the least. Honestly.
Judge for yourself. Here’s the video.