Listen to Me

 In Coaching, Culture, Leadership, Organizational Development

You’ve all met the person.  You’re in a conversation and the person you’re speaking with finishes your sentences jumps to a solution and starts talking about themselves before you can even finish what you were talking about.  You restrain yourself and bite your lip from screaming listen to me.

Listening is one of the most important skills to have in your toolbox, especially for leaders. How well you listen plays a significant role in your effectiveness at work, and in the quality of your relationships with your family, friends, peers, direct reports, and leaders.

We listen for all types of purposes:  to understand someone, to seek out information, for simple enjoyment, to learn new things.  So with all this listening we do, one might ask why we aren’t all that good at it.

How Good Are We At Listening, Really?

Because we are not generally taught how to listen, we are simply told to listen, for many of us it develops into an unconscious skill. Typically, you’ll direct your ears to listen to words, but effective listening is about more than just hearing the words that echo in your ears. Listening is an essential part of the whole communication cycle.

Good communication skills require a high level of self-awareness. By understanding your own communication style, can go a long way towards creating good and lasting impressions with others.

We all have different preferences for listening as well. And, some of us have to work harder at it than others because of our preferences. Completing an Everything DiSC assessment will help you become more self-aware and will help you be more intentional and active when learning to listen.

To become an effective listener is to practice “active listening”.  To listen actively requires a conscious effort to hear both the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, try to understand the whole message being sent.  Listen with an open ear, an open heart, and an open mind. Oh, and don’t forget to listen with open eyes, because what the ear might hear can contrast what the body is saying.

In order to do this you must pay attention to the other person very carefully.  The late Steven Covey says, “In empathic listening you listen with your ears, but you also, and more importantly, listen with you eyes and with your heart. You listen for feeling, for meaning. You listen for behavior. You use your right brain as well as your left. You sense, you intuit, you feel.’

Learning to listen actively starts when you close your mouth. Apart from the relationship and rapport reinforcing comments at the beginning of a conversation, your contribution is simply to listen and show the person you are listening to.  Here’s a great example.

You cannot allow yourself to become distracted by what else may be going on around you, or by forming thoughts or counter-arguments that you’ll make when the other person stops speaking. Nor can you allow yourself to get bored or lose focus on what the other person is saying. All of these contribute to a lack of listening and understanding.

Tips to Listen More Effectively

Here are some time tested tips for becoming a more effective active listener:

  • Put away your devices, turn your monitor off, silence any pavlovian triggers that draw your focus away from the person you’re listening to
  • Physically face the speaker
  • Maintain reasonable, respectable, and comfortable eye contact
  • Lean in, slightly forward towards the speaker (being mindful of their physical comfort zone)
  • Maintain a posture that is open and relaxed
  • Make encouraging responses that indicate you’re listening
  • Do whatever else you can to build rapport with the person, apart from talking
  • When the speaker finishes talking, ask any clarifying questions
  • Paraphrase what you understood them to have said, using your own words to verify you understand what they’ve shared

You simply listen and reflect back what they’ve shared with you.

It requires strong concentration and confidence to be an active listener. Old habits are hard to break, and if your listening habits are as bad as many people’s are, then there’s a lot of habits breaking to do!

Too often people mistake having the person to speak more with active listening. With active listening, the goal is truly to hear and understand what the speaker is conveying.

So if you find yourself asking questions to ‘lubricate’ the conversation, or even adding bits of your own then you’re not active listening – you’re having a conversation. If you ask questions to check or clarify your understanding once the speaker has stopped talking, you are listening actively.

Be deliberate with your listening and remind yourself frequently that your goal is to truly hear what the other person is saying. Set aside all other thoughts and behaviors and concentrate on the message. Ask questions, reflect, and paraphrase to ensure you understand the message. If you don’t, then you’ll find that what someone says to you and what you hear can be amazingly different!

Start using active listening today to become a better communicator, improve your workplace productivity, and develop better relationships.

SO, LET ME LISTEN TO YOU:

How well do you listen? Do you have the patience to listen better? Why do you think it’s so important to listen more effectively in our digitized world?

What’s the most important or impactful listening experience you had? Why did it leave an impact on you?

We welcome (and read) all comments, and would love to hear about your experience.

Not ready to share openly? That’s okay. Contact us directly at info@whereleadershipbegins.com.

Also, if you’re a new leader, either to the organization or promoted from an individual contributor role, we recommend you download our ebook here.

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