WHILE WE LISTEN
In my opinion, listening is one of the most important skills to develop not just as a leader, but as a person. Listening relates to another person that they are important, their thoughts are important, their opinions are important, their ideas are important, their time is important, etc. They are valued.
Too often listening turns into hearing and what we are hearing becomes background noise as we finish an email, a thought of our own, our preparation for the next meeting, and the list goes on. We are lucky to get half the words or any of the message being related to us.
It is important for our growth as a person (both professionally and personally) that we understand the importance of listening and how developing our listening skills and continually working on them benefits us and the people we interact with.
It’s tough. I try to be aware of listening, but I catch myself asking someone to repeat themselves, asking a question I have already asked, or repeating an instruction or thought to someone even though they got it the first time. Listening is difficult and my bet is it will only get harder as the world around us continues to throw distractions in our path.
Distractions. Obviously, this is our first step to better listening. Eliminate distractions that prevent you from listening to the messages people relay to you. It is difficult to put down the phone, close the email, set the mail aside, or stop working on the task at hand and give our full attention to the person we are talking to. Society is throwing so much at us at once and we think we are great at multi-tasking, but that misconception is hurting our communication process. So, begin improving your listening skills by pausing any activity that is interfering with digesting the full message coming at you.
Next, focus your thoughts on what is being said to you. This isn’t getting any easier, is it? We can think four times as fast as we hear. Four times as fast means we are thinking of our “to do” list and checking things off, organizing our days, making lists in our head as we are trying to comprehend what the person in front of us is trying to tell us. Of course we do this while trying to appear to have given our full attention. Try it. Close your mind down to your own conversations and listen to just the message of the person you are talking to. Odds are you’ll get more information than just the message, you’ll pick up on the little details as well.
Finally, don’t create your response while you are listening to the person communicating to you! Going along with that, don’t interrupt with your response to the person while they are communicating to you! Nothing screams “not listening” as blatantly as not listening.
It’s not as easy and one-two-three, but these are just three steps to improving your listening skills. Challenge yourself to be a better listener and to work on developing your listening skills.
When we take the time to pause the distractions around us and inside of us we communicate to the other person they are important. What they are saying is important. Unexpectedly we learn from others and from their experiences. It’s easier to develop relationships with people when they feel they are significant and that their ideas are valuable. We learn more about who they are as a person, what they like, dislike, their strengths, their weaknesses, their passions, and where they see themselves in the future. We learn how to grow them as an individual and as a part of our team. Even if they have opinions or ideas that are different than ours they are contributing. They may spark our creativity, they may prove a better way, and they may just lead you in a better direction.
All this we acquire while we listen.