5 Ways To Become A Better Listener
Being an effective leader requires a number of important skills, but perhaps none so important as listening. Not only is it more courteous to others, but being a good listener allows you to learn more and demonstrate that you value and appreciate what others have to say. Considering that almost half of all employees feel undervalued or unappreciated at work — and among those who feel that way, most are actively looking for work — it’s important to work on your listening skills.
Of course, being a good listener in today’s busy, fast-paced world can be challenging, with our mobile devices pinging every few moments and other seemingly nonstop demands on our attention. In fact, because listening is a challenge for so many people, a growing number of advanced degrees in organizational leadership programs now incorporate how to best develop listening skills into their curriculum for people looking to land upper management and executive positions. While leadership training is the best way to build your skills in all areas and become a stronger leader, you can work on your listening skills on your own.
1. Improve Your Active Listening
[bctt tweet=”When you are talking with someone, how much do you actually hear of what they are saying?” username=”bizmastersglobal”]If you are like many people, you are probably distracted; if not by electronics or something else going around you, but by thinking about how you are going to respond. Active listening means actually paying close attention to what the other person is saying — without thinking of your response, and just focusing on their actual words. When they finish speaking, your response should only be based on what they just said. Summarize their key points, clarify anything you don’t understand, and then respond. It’s not always easy at first, but with practice it will become second nature.
2. Mind Your Body Language
Even when you are listening to someone and catching what they say, your body can say otherwise. It’s easy to tell when someone is distracted — try talking with someone who is looking at their phone every few minutes, straightening papers on their desk, or doing anything but making eye contact. Even if you are looking at the person, your facial expressions and how you hold your body can tell them you aren’t listening, or that you are forming judgments. Work on focusing entirely on the speaker without making them feel uncomfortable, and maintaining a neutral or interested posture.
3. Withhold Judgement
You aren’t always going to like what other people have to say. You may not agree with their ideas or see flaws in a plan, but good listeners withhold judgement and maintain an open mind even when they can see what’s coming. Arguing with someone or trying to immediately share your perspective is not being a good active listener. Be open to new perspectives and withhold your judgment, and you might be surprised at what you learn.
4. Be Receptive
Nothing says that you’re not open to listening like keeping your back turned to someone or doing something else during your conversation. Constantly glancing at the clock — or even setting a timer — is even worse. If you are too busy to have an in-depth conversation, politely ask the other person if you can talk at another time when you can give him or her your full attention. Some offices have even developed systems to let others know when they are open to interruptions, ensuring that when conversations happen, both parties are engaged.
5. Know Your Emotional Trigger Words
Everyone has “trigger words” that can cause them to tune out or stop listening. Sometimes, certain words can even cause annoyance or irritation, limiting the power of what you are saying. It’s important to know what your own trigger words are, and temper your reaction to them so they don’t color the rest of the interaction.
Leaders who are good listeners are generally able to create better relationships with their employees, because they are seen as more trustworthy, transparent, and caring. This breeds more loyalty and better communication in the workplace, which in turn improves productivity. Listening skills are among the intangible soft skills that is imperative for a leader, but often lacking in job descriptions. By improving your own skills, either on your own or through formal training, you can become a more successful and compassionate leader.
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