All too often my husband and I find ourselves saying that our kids “never listen”. Perhaps you say the same thing at your home. However, I must admit that I too could do a much better job listening. Listening is an essential skill when relating to others and it is critical to finding out what’s going on in your organization. And it is the only way you’ll ever learn to be a better manager.
However, the key isn’t only listening, but ‘hearing’ the words and truly understanding and accepting the other person’s message, situation and feelings. Very often people are too busy thinking about their response rather than listening to the full statement…(Guilty as charged). In a business setting, this lack of attention can result in costly mistakes, wasted time, poor service and management failure.
Want to be a more effective listener and ensure understanding? Here are 4 steps that will help:
1. Listen to the total message: Before you begin to frame your response, give 100% of your full attention. Find the main thought the person is trying to share and consider it from his or her perspective – not yours. Suspend all other activities, don’t flip thru papers or type an email.
2. Prove your understanding by using nonverbal signals: Set a comfortable level for the conversation through nonverbal cues, it also shows you are interested in the topic and paying attention. Some positive nonverbal signals include:
- Moving out from behind the desk.
- Maintaining eye contact.
- Leaning forward slightly.
- Raising your eyebrows when the speaker makes a significant point.
- Nodding to indicate agreement.
3. Use open-ended probes: By asking these types of questions you’ll encourage the other person to share his or her opinions and feelings and elicit additional information. Open-ended questions begin with “why”, “how”, “explain” or “describe”.
4. Paraphrase what you hear: To say “I understand” isn’t enough. People typically need some sort of evidence of your understanding. Prove your understanding by briefly restating the information. You don’t do this to prove that you were listening to the person, but to prove that you understand them. There is a big difference.
I want to challenge you to think about how well you really listen to others in your work organizations. Effective listening and hearing will provide many benefits for you and your business. Some of those include:
- Earned respect, rapport and trust.
- Increased productivity.
- Innovative solutions.
- Improved morale.
- More influential leadership.
- Improved customer attraction and retention.
Could you be a better listener? Good listening is a challenge at times, however with practice and being deliberate in your efforts, you will be well on your way to making a positive impact in your organization.
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. — Ralph Nichols