Last month I was working on a project with my coworker, Mike, when I came across something that I thought was unusual.
It was something I’ve never seen before, and I wanted Mike’s opinion on what we should do.
I wanted to talk it out and get an explanation of some sort. About two sentences into my speech, Mike cut me off.
“Don’t worry about that. It’s not important,” He said.
That was it.
No explanation of why it wasn’t important.
Mike cut me off before I had a chance to explain. His short, abrupt response didn’t help me whatsoever.
I’m trying to learn and figure something out. And all he could say was that it wasn’t important.
His half assed response infuriated me.
I didn’t have any resolution. He made my job harder because not only did I not know why this didn’t matter, but I had to figure out on my own why it wasn’t important and document my reasoning.
Mike pissed me off. Why didn’t he listen to me? He could’ve given me an explanation and let me go on my way. Instead I completely wasted my time trying to figure out things on my own.
Mike’s not the best listener. But he’s not alone.
When people fail to listen, problems sprout up like weeds. It makes jobs harder. It leads to miscommunication. And it wastes time.
I’ve Resolved to Become a Good Listener
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to value good listening.
Growing up as a middle child, I felt like no one ever listened to me. Maybe I’m self-conscious about it.
Regardless, I made a promise not to make others feel like they are being ignored. I’m not perfect. I have moments where my attention dwindles.
Benefits of Listening
People have a tendency to tell me more information when I shut my mouth and listen to what they say.
By showing an ability to listen, people appreciate your patience and listening skills. They are also more likely to open up to you and tell you their deep, dark secrets.
If I were an evil person, I could use this to my advantage. But I’m not. I have, however, found this skill to be quite useful in my personal life and my work life.
You better understand people’s quirks and attitudes better. From there, you can adapt your behavior to their little quirks which is huge to help avoid any confrontation or animosity.
Great Leaders Listen
According to Sir Richard Branson, if you want to stand out as a leader, start by listening. Listening is a skill that helps you throughout your career. It helps you gather information on how to move things along by paying attention to what employees are saying.
Branson says “Leaders who are great listeners are often terrific at uncovering and putting in place strategies and plans that have a big impact.”
“We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.” – Diogenes
We listen for a variety of reasons: to obtain info, decipher it, learn, and for pure enjoyment. However, research shows we only remember about 25 to 50 percent of what we hear.
Many employers say listening is one of the top skills they look for in employees.
If you’re a business owner or employee, listening increases customer satisfaction, leads to greater productivity, fewer mistakes, and an increase in information shared among individuals.
How Can We Become Better Listeners?
1. Have an Open Mind
Start by having an open mind to what your speaker is saying. Listen without judging or criticizing.
Occasionally when I talk to someone with a different opinion from me, I can tell if they are tuning out what I say. What ends up happening is I don’t listen to what they say in retaliation. We are both stubborn, and all communication breaks down.
Hold back your thoughts, and listen without judging or criticizing. Don’t interrupt someone else when they are trying to finish their sentences.
2. Actively Listen
Pay complete attention to your speaker. Be mindful of what they are saying. Put away books, papers, your cell phone, and any other distractions that will detract from their message.
Sometimes I get bored when I hear someone else talking. I remind myself to repeat what they say in my head as they say it. This turns listening into an active activity instead of passive.
3. Make Eye Contact
Have you ever talked to someone while their eyes dart around the room? It’s kind of distracting.
Look at the speaker directly. Don’t become distracted by those things around you. Maintain eye contact with your subject.
4. Connect Emotionally
Listen to not only the words that the person is saying, but listen to the emotion behind those words. Are they excited or sad or angry?
Emotion drives a lot of our communication. Emotional awareness will lead to greater comprehension and understanding in your communication.
5. Pay Attention to Nonverbal Clues
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said” -Peter Drucker
Nonverbal communication makes up a majority of our communication.
Some say that 93 percent of our communication is nonverbal, others say 55 percent. The numbers don’t matter. At the end of the day, more than half of our communication with one another is nonverbal.
Pay attention to how someone is behaving. Are the fidgeting? Are they avoiding eye contact? Do they seem closed off?
These nonverbal clues can give you a peek into their mind and give you an idea of how they’re really feeling.
6. Acknowledge the Other Person
Nod your head and say “uh huh” or “yeah” to reassure the person that really are listening.
Not only that, but respond to the speaker in a way that encourages them to continue speaking. Be sure to recap what they say every so often. You can do this by saying, “So what you’re saying is…” or “So you think…”
This helps you understand better what they are saying, forces you to recall what you’re saying, and reinforces to the speaker that you are actually listening to their concerns.
7. Encourage Further Communication
Once you develop an understanding, ask open ended questions that encourage them to talk further and expand upon what they were saying.
You want to respond in a way that encourages your speaker to continue speaking. This way you can extract more information that you can utilize down the road. Ask open ended questions that allow for further explanation.
I’m not the best listener, that’s why I wrote this post. Sometimes I need to remind myself why listening is important and how to listen better.
Would you consider yourself a good listener? What would you recommend in order to become a better listener?