Learn how to become a better listener
Being a good listener is a skill many want, and few actually possess, but it is vital in the business world. Here are5 tips to become a better listener.
Listening is rarely listed as a required skill in job profiles, especially for senior management position. Yet those who are skilled listeners are better placed to lead increasingly diverse workforces in terms of gender, cultural background and generations. Listening is an art form that few take the time to master, despite the fact that it is part of an ideal profile for any leadership role. Many think that listening is an innate skill, that you are born with it. But it is yet another vital skill that is low-cost and can be self-taught. Becoming a better listener is also an ideal goal for anyone who is told they talk too much. If you are talking – you are not listening.
Here are 5 quick tips to become a better listener
1. Be genuinely curious
We all know the saying two ears and one mouth and that we need to listen twice as much as we speak. But most of us struggle and fall into the trap that we listen not out of curiosity, but because we are merely waiting to speak. We frequently, forget or never even committed to our consciousness, key parts of conversations. Committing to curiosity is a key element to becoming a better listener. Pay attention to the speaking vs talking ratio, whether for yourself or a meeting. Where does it lean? Do you run inclusive meetings or do you dominate the proceedings?
2. Ask questions
Being empathetic and open to hearing another point of view is critical if you want to become a better listener. In an era that is increasingly polarised, understanding what is going on for someone else is a big step to avoiding or minimising conflict in teams, organisations or even on projects. It doesn’t mean that you agree with the person, but you have heard what they say and are empathetic. Understanding their viewpoint will help anticipate consequences of any decisions taken. It may even frame a course of action.
Attentive listening is a valuable tool in the better listener tool kit. Paraphrasing what you have understood clarifies the point in your own head or for the group, but it also makes the speaker feel heard. When people feel heard, they feel valued and will remain engaged.
4. Respond at the end
Interrupting or responding before the other person has finished gives the impression of self-importance. It communicates a message that the speaker’s contribution is not worthy of being listened to. It’s undermining in a public way. Women struggle with what is know known as “manterruptions” frequently accompanied by “mansplaining.” Waiting for someone to finish and then offering a comment is a vital component to becoming a better listener.
5. Stop multi-tasking
It’s easy to drift off during a conversation by not listening at all or to only half listen while you are looking at something on your phone, or shuffling through papers or even taking notes. If you are a note taker jot something down at the end, using tip number 3 paraphrasing to structure your thoughts. Taking notes is a role frequently assigned to women. Insist that it is rotated. If your natural inclination is for note taking, keep it to a summary only so that you are actively listening to the conversation. If you are note taking, your head is down and you don’t appear engaged and you probably aren’t totally.
By growing into a better listener you become a leader who cares about your employees. Remember people don’t leave organisations they leave bosses and this is one way to keep your team sharp and engaged. It’s an easy and cheaply acquired leadership tool. You can master it now!