Do You Really Listen? Maybe You Should…
Do You Really Listen?
So why don’t we listen, really listen? There are probably more reasons, and excuses, than would fit in any article, but for business particularly here are some of the most common: You know what the person is trying to say. You can listen and do something else since you are so busy. You don’t really want to hear what is being said. It isn’t a good time. You’d rather do the talking. You’ve heard it before. It’s boring. You know what’s coming next. The tone you’re hearing is too annoying to listen to. You decide it isn’t important. Or, the ever popular, blame it on the person talking. If they were a good communicator you’d have to listen, right?
What’s Your Excuse?
I bet you could add a bunch more excuses without much effort. Let’s start then with why you should be a better listener and then we’ll give some how-to…if you are still reading (ie listening with your eyes!) The most important reason to be a better listener is that it is key to being a better communicator. Too often we think our skill at giving information is what makes us great communicators but that’s barely half the picture. Did you ever hear a worker suggest there’s a communication issue? Shouldn’t every boss be a good communicator? As often as not the perception of poor communication is because a person doesn’t feel really listened to rather than they aren’t hearing or seeing something.
Besides making you a better leader, manager, parent, worker, spouse…human…listening is a skill too often overlooked, rushed or ignored. You may try to fool yourself that you can multitask but the reality is that the human brain only has focus on one thing at a time with any quality so while you may think you are hearing everything chances are good that unfocused listening will result in you missing something and the person speaking not feeling confident about the conversation. Whether it’s missing data, subtext, emotion, or anything else when we don’t focus there is no substitute for actively listening if you want complete information and to be a good communicator.
The fundamentals of good listening begin with a focus on what is being said. That begins with your body signals. By eye contact with the person talking, stopping other activity, opening your body posture, leaning in, nodding and other physical signals set the stage for comprehension and good listening. Notice the listener the next time you’ve got something to say. By observing how other listen you get a read of your own quality.
The next part of good Active Listening is to encourage the person to complete their thoughts without interruption either with nodding, short utterances (“I see,” “go on,” “ok”) and then pause when the person is complete. Do not demonstrate an ambition to quickly comment, answer or dismiss until an entire thought has been expressed. Follow that pause with a Reflective Comment where you can restate the gist of what was presented to you. End that with a question to confirm your summary is correct, (ie Do I have that right?).
The final quick trick of great listeners is that they are not in a hurry with their response. Sure, some interactions only require a quick yes or no or simple direction but you should match your level of intensity of listening with the perceived importance of the comment. An interview, for example, seems obvious to be a focused conversation but so many of them receive answers with eyes down, taking a note or otherwise disengaging.
Use your intuition, observation and other senses to draw out what’s really going on, what the person really wants to know or wants you to know. A simple observation like, “This seems really important to you…” acknowledges to the speaker you get it. Answer a question with a question before you give an answer and you can get to the “why” you are being asked a question. Using “Reversing” helps the presenter better communicate what’s important and sure enough when they are helped to the real point you get credit for really listening, and avoid reacting to something that wasn’t really the point.
Don’t take conversations lightly if you want to be a good leader, communicator, partner or person. Use the techniques that demonstrate you really listen; words, tone, body language. Reflect it back and/or question a question to drill down to the real issues and a slightly longer communication will save you repeats, misses and “I thought you said…” Give it a try, ya hear?!
©2019 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For more BUSINESS THERAPY insights follow Tom @TomFoxTrainer, on LinkedIn or at www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts. His recent book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.