It still boggles my mind, that in a world where one of the single most important skills we as humans must have to be successful in business, relationships and all the in-between is communication, yet so many of us lack it. Why? Why are we so easy to request a listening ear from a colleague, spouse or friend, but when it comes to us listening we fail miserably?

Active listening is so very crucial in relationships, that without it most relationships falter and fail. The issue is, we naturally get lost within our head and in our own thoughts deciding how to respond, if what the person is saying relates to us, and potentially even what we are cooking for supper. Distractions such as cell phones, microwaves beeping, children running through the kitchen or someone else’s conversation across the room all can play a toll on how actively we are listening to the person in front of us. It truly takes concentration and dedication to actively listen to someone when they are expressing their thoughts.

A quote by Stephen R. Covey states; “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Which as we discussed above is the opposite of actually actively listening. If you are wanting to build rapport, gain trust, and be respected as a leader this skill is an asset that must be obtained and worked on regularly. Picture yourself sitting in an interview, your resume is on point, your suit is pressed, your hair is well coiffed, and your mind starts wandering. Have you ever witnessed what it looks like when someone starts wandering? Their eyes falter away, they respond slower and have less of an interested posture. The person interviewing you is watching, they are about to ask you an important question based on the story they just shared. Can you respond with gusto and poise? Probably not. You potentially could say something like “Excuse me, could your repeat the question?”, hoping that that buys you time to gather your thoughts. The truth is, the next person in line, who is well dressed and has an impressive resume as well, just may be a better listener and because of this, get the job.

Now let’s reverse this for a second. Have you ever came home to your spouse excited to share some epic news. News that is extremely noteworthy to you, but potentially not as much for them. As you share your excitement, their eyes wander, they check their phone and respond with words like ‘Oh yeah, cool!’, at less than appropriate times. They ask no question, respond with barely recognizable sounds and your overall feeling is MEH! Meh, because your hope was they would share that excitement, yet they didn’t. This my friend, is why actively listening is so darn important in ALL relationships, business and intimate.

You to me: “OK, TA, so now that you have my attention, how can I become a better listener?”

Me to You: “HA, so glad you asked! Here are some simple tips below. Remember, practice makes awesome!”

Actionable Steps Towards Active Listening

  1. Remove any potential for distractions. Turn your phone on silent. Turn off the TV, sound system.
  2. Lean in. Uncross your arms, put your feet down and lean towards them with posture that shows you are interested.
  3. Keep your eyes on them. Don’t wander with your eyes, check your watch or clock. Eyes open!
  4. Watch for clues. Pay attention to their tone, posture, their eyes. They may be giving you some non-verbal clues that can give you a hint to how they are feeling. Respond accordingly.
  5. Don’t interrupt. Don’t try to fix it. Don’t give advice. DON’T.
  6. Use your own body language to show your interest. Nod your head, make noises like ‘Oh, yes, mmm’. Remember your tone, facial expressions and posture can either help or hinder the conversation. Be conscious of it!
  7. Get clarification. Ask questions, be interested.
  8. Think before you speak. Take the Buddha approach ““If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?”
  9. Be a chameleon. Respond back to them (when they’ve finished), what you think you’ve heard. “So if I am hearing you correctly, James, your boss was a totally jack-ass today and due to this you left 30 minutes early?”
  10. Show them with your words that you understand their ‘FEELINGS’. “Wow, that must really frustrate you that James took out his bad day on you, I’m sorry that had to happen to you”
  11. Thank them for sharing.

Communication is literally the end-all, be-all to achieve success in business and in life. Now that you have the basics, and understand why listening is such a crucial ingredient in communication, go out there and listen like you’ve never listened before.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  – Stephen Covey

Send me some comments to let me know how you made out 🙂

xo

TA

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