What Listening Is/ Does
“We should all know this: that listening, not talking, is the gifted and great role, and the imaginative role. And the true listener is much more believed, magnetic than the talker, and he is more effective and learns more and does more good. And so try listening. Listen to your wife, your husband, your father, your mother, your children, your friends, to those who love you and those who don’t, to those who bore you, to your enemies. It will work a small miracle. And perhaps a great one.” – Brenda Ueland
How to Improve
“Let us start with the principle that there will always be a Presenter and a Listener in any discussion. A good listener allows the presenter to talk without interrupting. The good listener asks questions to understand the presenter. The listener sticks with their role as a Listener until the presenter feels heard and understood.”
1. Be The Last to Speak
2. Assume the Best
3. Be an Active Listener
Active listening takes place when a listener focuses his full attention on the speaker, avoids interrupting the speaker, remains nonjudgmental and shows genuine interest in the speaker. In addition to hearing the words, full attention allows the listener to understand what’s being implied and read nonverbal clues such as body language and facial expressions that may contradict verbal words. Fully engaging in the discussion or conversation is one of the most important aspects of active listening. An open, inviting posture and occasional small verbal comments such as “yes” or “I understand” can help uncover the root of most problems. – by Jackie Lohrey on smallbusiness.chron.com
Here’s a little test. Try listening for just one day to someone you are close to: your husband or wife, child or parent. Try really listening to a difficult business colleague or client. And when they finish, don’t let your self-assertion jump in with “yes, but…..”. Get rid of the word “but” altogether, it only serves to negate everything the person you are listening to has just said. Instead, if you do say anything, try asking “What else?” – How Important Is Listening, Really? By Christina Holbrook McEntee on Forbes.com
4. Get mentally and physically present.
The most important thing is to commit to being an intentional listener. This means putting your phone out of sight. Focusing on the speaker and not thinking about deadlines or to-dos. Be present.
Lea McLeod says, “If you’re sitting behind a desk, where it might be tempting to multitask, shut your laptop and move papers to the side. This tells the other person that you’re ready for the conversation.”
Here’s a less obvious tip (at least for me):
Physical movement is disrupting “Often, when you’re listening to someone, there’s a natural tendency to physically react to what he or she is saying, instead of simply letting it sink in. Perhaps you make a face, furrow your brows, or smile here and there. While you may think it demonstrates your interest in the conversation, all of these activities actually disrupt your ability to listen and the other person’s ability to be heard.” – Lea McLeod
“Offer uninterrupted speaking time: Instead, I suggest using a technique that mediators use when they facilitate conflict: Give the other person uninterrupted speaking time. It sounds simple, but here’s the catch: Your goal during this time is to listen with the intent of repeating back what’s said. When that is your objective, you’ll listen with a different intent (actually understanding what’s being said), instead of trying to interject your own thoughts. – Lea McLeod
Start off by practicing the tips mentioned above. Work on being the last to speak. Assume the best and hide your phone and any distractions when speaking with someone. These seem simple but are tough. I’ve tried to focus on each one and found it to be difficult. Soon, these habits will be so automatic you’ll find people coming towards you like a magnet!
“Improved listening skills will set you apart as a colleague and leader, as others start noticing that you take them seriously in your conversations. Start taking these steps to up your listening game, and you’ll up your career game, too.” – Lea McLeod