This post shares five steps for better listening, an easily-ignored, but hugely valuable social business skill.
In a world of constant distractions and competing priorities, mastering effective listening makes a world of business sense. Just think about how much time you spend in meetings, on the phone, and on conference calls. Better listening can maximize that time–not to mention improve your management ability and strengthen your relationships. But, it takes work and patience to master this seemingly simple skill. So, let’s share some strategies.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”- Stephen R. Covey
Five steps for better listening
- Avoid distractions
- Pay attention
- Keep an open mind
- Give feedback
1) Avoid distractions
Communication expert Rebecca Shafir suggests that the average person can remember only 25 percent of what someone has said, just a few minutes after a conversation. As hard as it might seem or feel, put your phone down and on silent. Demonstrate that you care about retaining key facts during the conversation.
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” – Bryant H. McGill
2) Pay attention
When listening for long stretches, concentrate on, and remember, keywords and phrases. Concentrate on what people say, even if it bores you. If your thoughts start to wander, immediately force yourself to refocus. Also, pay attention to what’s not being said. Non-verbal cues and/or body language might give you hidden clues
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said” –Peter Drucker
3) Keep an open mind
Listen without jumping to conclusions. Watch for any hidden bias you may have. Don’t be in a rush to finish someone’s thoughts. That includes not interrupting or rushing to give your solutions. Empathy helps to deal with difficult situations. So, try and feel what the speaker feels.
“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” – Karl A. Menniger
4) Give feedback
Reflect on the speaker’s feelings. If you’re not sure how they feel, then occasionally paraphrase. You can use body language (like nodding) or reflection sounds (e.g. hmm). These little things help signal interest and understanding during a conversation.
“Hearing is what you do with your ears. Listening is what you do with your brain.” – Unknown source
To ensure effective listening, take a moment to summarize the conversation and state follow-up actions (or next steps). This exercise ensures that teams make the most of their time together. In positive conversations, feel free to describe how the conversation has made you feel, as well.
Tell us, readers, what actions do you take in your daily life to improve in the art of listening?