Listening has been described as an effective way to learn what others value. I think God knew how important listening is to human interactions, so you and I were created with two ears and one mouth. This helps us listen to our spouse, listen to our customers and listen to our employees.
There are times when the best thing you can do in a conversation is to listen to the other party. Everybody wants to talk and we end up shouting over each other with no one really listening.
Why don’t you be that listening leader and your organisation, your team and your family will enjoy the benefits that come with effective listening.
So why listen?
- Listening shows that you care
- Listening helps you discover what others want or need
- Listening helps you build rapport and mutual respect
- Listening rewards you with increased customer confidence which easily translates to return business
- Listening increases the participation and contribution of others.
As the leader of your organisation, listening takes on a bigger significance when you leave your office to meet employees on the shop floor. With this singular move, you convey a sense of contribution and inclusion in the decision making process.
Encouraging small talk
If you are running a small business, your close proximity to the front line means that listening and chatting must be an integral part of work. There has to be a deliberate effort to incorporate non-work related talk into conversations.
I had someone once tell me that my work environment was too quiet. So I made the conscious effort of making social chatter a part of our work culture. This has made me a part of the unofficial communications channel where issues and concerns are aired. You the leader had better be there to listen.
So let me give you my six keys for effective listening.
6 Keys for Effective listening
#1. Show real interest in the conversation
There have been times when I have been called to order at meetings because my body language shows my obvious disinterest in the topic under discussion. Now I make the effort to lean forward and show a genuine interest in the conversation. You have to stop all other activities and focus on the person talking.
#2. Listen with the intention to understand
Its not uncommon for me when listening to begin rehearsing my response while the other party is still talking. For effective listening, you need to do what Steven Covey calls Empathic Listening. You are listening to get the other persons frame of reference and see the world from that persons point of view. In Covey’s words, you seek first to understand before being understood.
#3. Suspend judgement
It’s easy to think that you know where the story is going to end and as such you begin to interject your own conclusions based on your own point of view and experiences. This will not help your listening. You need to listen to the whole story before making up your mind as to what is conveyed. This takes some patience and practice but is very rewarding.
#4. Summarise what you have heard
There is a need to reassure the person speaking that you are listening. One of the ways to do this is to summarise what you have heard when the speaker has major pauses. This must be done with great care so that it is not perceived as interruptions. Use your own words to express what you have heard. This also gives the person speaking an opportunity to clarify any misunderstanding.
#5. Ask questions
Asking questions is an important part of the listening process. It shows the speaker that you are listening and interested in the discussion. It also presents you with an opportunity to clarify points that you have not understood.
#6. Don’t interrupt
This is a difficult one, especially if you find yourself with someone who likes to talk. If you have limited time, be clear about this from the beginning of the conversation. If you have to leave, find a pause in the conversation and state your intention to end the conversation at this point.
Here’s my question to you, are you a good listener? Make a deliberate attempt to improve your listening skills. Your influence as a leader will increase and you will be a more pleasant person to be around.
Are you a good listener? Why not leave a comment.