Note: This material has been extracted from The Effectiveness Guide.
This article will focus on Communication and Active Listening. As I share what I’ve learned from being an Executive Coach for more than 20 years, you’ll learn how you can enhance your value-added to your employer by enhancing your ability to listen actively.
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually
listening to what another has to say.”
– Bryant H. McGill
Have you ever had a conversation with your leader about solving a problem, only to find out later that what you thought your leader wanted or told you to do, was incorrect? You totally misunderstood what your leader told you. If not, you will.
Effective people know that human communication is the foundation upon which they’re building their reputation and credibility. This is why your ability to communicate should be something you continuously striving to improve throughout your life. The power of active listening can produce a tremendous amount of influence.
Misunderstandings are part of human nature. Since listening is the process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken or nonverbal messages, misunderstandings will occur. Plan on it.
Here are some suggestions.
Prepare to Listen:
The most important things you can do to PREPARE to listen are:
Schedule: Schedule your conversations for when you’re least likely to be tired, interrupted, or distracted.
Wait your turn: Don’t interrupt to correct the speaker, finish the speaker’s sentence, or change the subject. Do interrupt politely and briefly, to ask a question if something is unclear.
Set the stage: Place chairs so the sun won’t glare in their eyes. Sit near the speaker-not behind your desk. Close doors to reduce noise. Turn off your cell phone and ask them to do the same!
Be Patient: Don’t form opinions or make judgments until the speaker is done. Give the speaker a chance to elaborate or correct a mistake. Wait a moment before speaking.
Note taking: If you take notes, do so sparingly. Don’t get too involved in writing, look up frequently, and record only main points, new facts, and ideas.
Check your Ego and Agenda at the Door:
Nothing blocks listening faster than ego; your pride. Being humble and receptive to the message is one way to solve this problem. Let go of your intention to win, to be right, or to dominate the discussion. Let your agenda go.
Try to understand where the other person is coming from. When you catch yourself saying, “You didn’t let me finish,” you’re becoming defensive. So, what’re you trying to defend? What’re you resisting?
Without being open and receptive to new input, you’ll only be half-listening. Active listening helps communicate reception of the intended message both verbally and non-verbally. To capture the message fully, listen carefully to what is said and observe their body language and facial expressions.
Use “Active” Listening:
Active Listening is a communication technique which requires the listener to paraphrase what he heard, saw, and felt in his words, to confirm what the speaker intended to communicate.
Eye contact: Maintaining eye contact without staring helps show sincere interest. Occasional breaks of eye contact are normal and acceptable, while excessive breaks, paper shuffling, and clock-watching may be perceived as a lack of interest or concern.
Body posture: Sit up straight and lean forward slightly. Being relaxed and comfortable will help put them at ease. However, a too-relaxed position or slouching may be interpreted as a lack of interest.
Head nods: Occasional head nodding indicates paying attention and encourages them.
Facial expressions: Keep your facial expressions natural and relaxed to signal sincere interest.
Verbal expressions: Offer comments like “Go on,” “Okay” or “I see.” Don’t agree or disagree – initially. Refrain from talking too much and avoid interrupting. Let them do the talking while keeping the discussion on the subject.
Ask questions: Rather than making judgments or stating your opinion, ask questions. Stay alert for common themes. Their opening/closing statements, as well as recurring references, may indicate their priorities. Inconsistencies and gaps may indicate an avoidance of the real problem and may suggest additional questions.
Acknowledge their Body Language:
Pay attention to their body language and gestures to understand the complete message. By watching their actions, you can identify the emotions behind the words. Not all actions are proof of feelings, but they should be considered.
The most important things to look for when observing body language and gestures are:
Boredom: Is he drumming the table, doodling, clicking a pen, or resting the head in the palm of the hand
Self-confidence: Is he sitting tall, leaning back with hands behind the head, with steady eye contact
Defensiveness: Is he glaring at you, making sarcastic comments, or crossing his arms in front of the chest
Frustration: Is he rubbing eyes, pulling on an ear, wringing hands, or frequently changing body position
Interest, friendliness, and openness: Is he moving toward you while sitting
Anxiety: Is he sitting on the edge of the chair with arms uncrossed and hands open
Sorrow/depression: Is he looking down
What are you Sensing?
What message are you sensing, regardless of what he’s saying? Assess the non-verbal message you’re sensing and ask him what your sensing means. You might say, “I get the feeling that…, or I’m sensing that you… Is this correct?”
Note: Empathic listening means seeking first to understand the other person. You might say, “If I understand you correctly, you…. Is this correct?” “Now I understand you.” But you don’t have to agree. Heated discussion is okay if it doesn’t lead to a personal attack, name calling, or swearing. If it does, take a break!
I challenge you to share this information with others because the only way to truly own knowledge is to give it away – one of the great paradoxes in life.
How do you feel when someone is not listening to you!
Building lasting relationships is all about being a good listener.
In my next post, I’ll focus on enhancing your ability to resolve problems. Stay tuned! In the meantime, if you need more help, visit TheEffectivenessInstitute.com