How well do you listen? Are you conscious of the fact that there is a difference between hearing and listening? Hearing is an auditory function. Listening is an active and intentional process. Picture this situation: You are sitting at your desk typing an email and a team member approaches you wanting to discuss something. You glance over and say: “Why don’t you start while I am finishing this up?” Sounds familiar? We may all have fallen into this trap believing that we can do two things at the same time. Fact is: You can only really focus on one thing at a time. Will your team member feel appreciated while they are speaking, and you are doing something else?
Before you enter a conversation with someone it is worth checking your attitude towards that person and the topic of conversation. Ask yourself: Am I interested in the person? Am I curious about what this person has to say? Do I have the ability and time to focus on the topic? If the answer to any of these questions is NO – delay the conversation.
I would like to introduce you to the various stages of listening:
This is listening for an opportunity to start speaking yourself. You listen and at the same time think about your own story, waiting for a chance to talk about your own experience.
You show your attention by maintaining eye contact with the speaker, by nodding your head signaling understanding and by making appropriate noises like “aha”, “hmmmm”, etc.
You listen and then repeat in your own words what you have heard. This increases the common understanding of what has been said. Your own opinion takes a back seat. You paraphrase by saying “If I understood you correctly, ….”, “Ah, you think …”.
You listen to the “whole person”, i.e., you don’t just listen to what is being said but also to what is not being said. You listen for facts but also for feelings.
Active listening is a skill which requires training and practice. It requires you to quiet the chatter in your head to a point where you can give your undivided attention to the other person.
Don’t fall into the trap of forming your answers before the person has finished speaking. Trust that a fuller answer or follow-up question will form in your mind once they have finished talking. Try not to interrupt!
Which of these stages do you find yourself in? Which traps do you fall into at times? What are your methods or techniques for making sure you can listen fully?
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If you find this inspiring and you would like to explore further, I am delighted to meet with you for a 30-minute-free-of-charge-info-session.