Listening skills are undoubtedly one of the most overlooked skills in leadership and industry. We all know listening is a vital part of our job, but not everyone is taking the time it takes to become a better listener.
We live in an era of endless distractions even though we are learning to become better listeners. From ever-growing to-do lists to a burning urge to stay important to social media and technological advancements, there are countless factors that make listening profoundly difficult.
When I was ageing, the only advice about listening was making good eye contact with the speaker and leaning in. The thought was that leaning in while a person was speaking would improve comprehension and give the illusion that you were listening deep.
Hearing what an individual communicates, however, implies so much more than we do with our bodies. Certainly, our body language is important, but it is one piece, not the whole. Active listening includes the following steps:
Listen with the intention to understand
Listening Skills. This is an integral part of active listening. You listen with an open mind, against a prejudged inference, while listening with the intention to understand.
When you communicate with the intent to understand, you ask timely questions (as opposed to interrupting to share a different story) to ensure that the messages you receive are the one that the speaker intends to receive.
Hearing with the intention of comprehension involves going into a conversation with a sincere interest in knowing what the speaker is saying and being vigilant to take in all the communication signals, such as verbal, nonverbal, and what is said freely and left hidden.
Use interruptions sparingly
It is important to use interruptions sparingly when practising active listening. Enable the speaker to express a whole thought before interrupting the questions or understanding what he or she has said.
Others’ remarks will spark ideas, so many times, and we will disrupt them. When we’re not careful though, interruptions can talk, “Oh, I know more than you,” or worse, “You ‘re taking too long to get to the point and I don’t have time to listen to what you’ve got to tell.”
When people feel like they are not or have not been noticed, they may fail to develop a relationship of confidence with you.
Process what you’ve heard
The interpretation of what you hear is all about asking yourself if your own viewpoint unduly affects what the other person says. It’s about being truthful enough to know if you’re adding meaning to what another person is saying.
I have had an important dinner meeting with two business associates, for example, many weeks ago. I spent a lot of time doing my hair styling and making sure I was clean and presentable. My associate said when I walked into the party, “oh, your hair looks like a 1960s look.”
This wasn’t the look I expected.
I instantly heard, “Your hair is bad.” I thought about what the person was saying for a couple of minutes during the dinner, and compared it to what I saw, which was influenced by my own hairstyle insecurity. I eventually chalked up the contact gap to me being too sensitive.
Had I not interpreted the conversation, I may very well have been caught in my head or handled my friend differently on the basis of what I first heard as an insult.
Just because there are two people in a conversation doesn’t mean both parties are hearing the same thing. We each bring our own Weltanschauung to discussions, which is German for “world view,” and this forms what and how we say.
Whether you’re a boss, you’ve definitely been in a position where you are assigning an employee to a project and awaiting its completion. When you’re done, you’re mystified to hear that your employee has done an outstanding job on something you never asked for or wanted.
Repeat backs are an effective tool for improving communication, expressing your interest in the person who talks and making sure you know what the other person wants.
Repeat backups work better when addressing one-on-one or in small groups. When you’re at a seminar or a major gathering, you might not be able to replicate what you’ve learned before. Nevertheless, whether you’re in a professional environment or meeting a family member or relative, practice repeating what you’ve said and ask the speaker whether you understood what he or she said correctly.
The way it works is simple: you are listening to a conversation and trying to catch as much as you can.
When the person you’re talking to finishes his or her comments, ask if it’s OK for you to repeat what you heard the individual say back. Then send the conversation highlights which convey your understanding. It is perfect for you and for the speaker, it affirms.
We must not judge in order to practice the active listening skills.
We draw too many conclusions while you are sitting in a position of judgment then we only listen to find information that supports the conclusion you have reached.
If this happens, it is hard to even hear what anyone else is doing. It’s almost as if you ‘re playing bingo and listening to your bingo sheet just for the words.
Anything else is a diversion when you’re on a mission. Suspending judgment does not mean listening undiscerned. It means you listen to the possibility that you might be incorrect. It means open-minded listening skills.
We can never listen deeply if we are not willing to stop judging others.
Make good eye contact
We’ve heard plenty of people say they ‘re listening even though their eyes are on other things. Effective listening is about listening to all of our senses and body.
To improve your listening skills or develop them, look at the person who is speaking. Make good eye contact with the person during all of their remarks. It helps you to take into account the words the person is saying, as well as the facial expressions and movements of the individual.
I assure you, when you stay tuned in to the speaker, it’s difficult not to learn anything from the conversation.
Curiosity is a blessing to innovation, listening is also helpful.
You will be eager for more information when you become curious. Beware of the subtleties and the obvious texts. Even when the conversation is over, the curious mind is still processing what you’ve heard.
Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is tough but important. If you want to be an active listener you need it.
Being an active listener is to briefly imagine that you are walking the path of the other person and experience what that individual feels like. For the person speaking, active listening is about cultivating empathy.
When you imagine observing life through the eyes of the speaker, listening with curiosity would be easier.