We are inundated daily with many things vying for our attention, which can lead to the bad habit of half-listening. But what kind of message does this send to the people around us? What steps do we need to take to be a leader in active listening?
I am sorry, what did you say? How often do you find yourself asking that or struggling to remember things people have shared with you? Being an active listener is a skill set that is well worth the effort. It involves a great deal of emotional intelligence and self-awareness—the ability to take a step back and honestly review your listening skills and ask yourself if you are known as a poor listener, and actively take steps to improve.
Key Questions/Topics Covered
Listening longer to gain insight
Ding! Another notification just went off just as someone has asked to speak with you. What do you do? Do you quickly read through the message as the other person is speaking? We are all probably guilty of this to some extent. But when someone wants to have a discussion with us, they deserve our undivided attention. Now you may say that this is just not always possible, but there are things we can do to at least improve our listening skills.
Mark shared a great tip on our recent podcast to help with these types of situations. He calls it his 5-20 rule. Basically, if someone needs to discuss something with you, start by asking them if this conversation needs five or twenty minutes and advise them that if it needs more than five minutes, you will need to schedule it when you have the time to give them the attention they deserve. This shows that you truly value what they have to say and want to provide them with your full attention and be able to listen intently to what they have to say. Also, by giving yourself this time, you ensure that you are getting all the information you need if any action is required on your part.
Listening to respond
Another typical listening failure many of us are guilty of is listening to respond. Our brains may want to cut to the chase, so to speak, and quickly offer up a response to what is being said, but this can cause communication breakdowns. If you are busy thinking up your answer, can you legitimately say you are listening? By falling victim to this listening process, you will more than likely miss out on some critical information that will affect your response. Active listening means just that. You are actively engaged in the conversation, possibly repeating key points in your head to ensure your comprehension.
Listening to understand
We have discussed the need to set aside time so your attention is focused and the ability to slow our minds down to actively listen instead of considering our own response to what is being said; the final piece to the puzzle comes with understanding. People speak in various ways and can sometimes get bogged down in technical terms. We want to be careful that we both speak clearly and ask for clarification when needed. Another thing to keep in mind is whether or not the person speaking with us is looking for a solution, advice, or perhaps just a listening ear. Ensuring your understanding of the conversation and why it is happening will help you be a proficient active listener.
Being an active listener is everyone’s responsibility. But by taking the lead in active listening, you both set an example and build a culture of quality communication.
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