istening is a bit
like intelligence ó most everyone thinks theyíre above average, even
though thatís impossible. And listening is a skill you want to be
great at. A recent study conducted at George Washington University
showed that listening can influence up to 40% of a leaderís job
Thereís so much talking happening at work that opportunities to
listen well abound. We talk to provide feedback, explain
instructions, and communicate deadlines. Beyond the spoken words,
thereís invaluable information to be deciphered through tone of
voice, body language, and what isnít said.
In other words, failing to keep your ears (and eyes) open could
leave you out of the game.
Most people believe that their listening skills are where they
need to be, even though they arenít. A study at Wright State
University surveyed more than 8,000 people from different verticals,
and almost all rated themselves as listening as well as or better
than their co-workers. We know intuitively that many of them are
Effective listening is something that can absolutely be learned
and mastered. Even if you find attentive listening difficult and, in
certain situations, boring or unpleasant, that doesnít mean you
canít do it. You just have to know what to work on. The
straightforward strategies that follow will get you there.
The biggest mistake most people make when it comes to
listening is theyíre so focused on what theyíre going to say
next or how what the other person is saying is going to affect
them that they fail to hear whatís being said. The words come
through loud and clear, but the meaning is lost. Focusing may
seem like a simple suggestion, but itís not as easy as it
sounds. Your thoughts can be incredibly distracting.
Put away your phone:
Itís impossible to listen well and monitor your phone at the
same time. Nothing turns people off like a mid-conversation text
message or even a quick glance at your phone. When you commit to
a conversation, focus all your energy on the conversation. You
will find that conversations are more enjoyable and effective
when you immerse yourself in them.
Ask good questions:
People like to know youíre listening, and something as simple
as a clarification question shows not only that you are
listening but that you also care about what theyíre saying.
Youíll be surprised how much respect and appreciation you gain
just by asking good questions. In addition to verifying what
youíve heard, you should ask questions that seek more
information. Examples of probing questions are "What happened
next?" and "Why did he say that?" The key is to make certain
that your questions really do add to your understanding of the
speakerís words, rather than deflecting the conversation to a
Psychologist Carl Rogers used the term "reflective listening"
to describe the listening strategy of paraphrasing the meaning
of whatís being said in order to make certain youíve interpreted
the speakerís words correctly. By doing this, you give the
speaker the opportunity to clarify what she meant to say. When
you practice reflective listening, donít simply repeat the
speakerís words to her. Use your own words to show that youíve
absorbed the information.
Use positive body
Becoming cognizant of your gestures, expressions, and tone of
voice (and making certain theyíre positive) will draw people to
you like ants to a picnic. Using an enthusiastic tone,
uncrossing your arms, maintaining eye contact, and leaning
towards the speaker are all forms of positive body language
employed by great listeners. Positive body language can make all
the difference in a conversation.
Donít pass judgment:
If you want to be a good listener, you must be open-minded.
Being open-minded makes you approachable and interesting to
others. No one wants to have a conversation with someone who has
already formed an opinion and is not willing to listen. Having
an open mind is crucial in the workplace, where approachability
means access to new ideas and help. To eliminate preconceived
notions and judgment, you need to see the world through other
peopleís eyes. This doesnít require that you believe what they
believe or condone their behavior; it simply means that you quit
passing judgment long enough to truly understand what they are
Keep your mouth shut:
If youíre not checking for understanding or asking a probing
question, you shouldnít be talking. Not only does thinking about
what youíre going to say next take your attention away from the
speaker, hijacking the conversation shows that you think you
have something more important to say. This means that you
shouldnít jump in with solutions to the speakerís problems. Itís
human nature to want to help people, especially when itís
someone you care about, but what a lot of us donít realize is
that when we jump in with advice or a solution, weíre shutting
the other person down. Itís essentially a more socially
acceptable way of saying, "Okay, Iíve got it. You can stop now!"
The effect is the same.
Bringing It All Together
Life is busy, and it seems to whirl by faster every day. We all
try to do a million things at once, and sometimes it works out. But
active, effective listening isnít something you can do on the fly.
It requires a conscious effort.
Today, focus on listening. You and those you interact with will
be glad you did.
Make a difference today!