How to be a Better Listener

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Remember these three little guys who represent an instruction to avoid bad behaviour?

There are various meanings to these ascribed monkeys “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” All are associated with being of good mind, speech, and action, and are often used to deal with the impropriety of turning a blind eye.

Are you turning a blind eye to another critical soft skill?

Many of us are bad listeners. We are too busy to listen properly; we think we know what the problem is and we’re already preparing our answer. Sound familiar?

Listening is your secret weapon.

It is an important leadership skill and it’s a tough skill to learn. If you want to be an inspirational leader, you must treat your team with respect, and that includes listening to them.

There’s nothing more disrespectful than speaking to someone and they are showing you that they are not listening. We’ve all been there.

Listening is more than hearing words; it’s about understanding what the speaker is saying and replying in a way that shows you have truly heard them. The ability to receive messages is as important (if not more important) than the ability to send them.

There are three simple, not easy, steps to gain listening skills but only through practice…

Ask, Reflect and Respond.

Building relationships with your team requires active listening. This will increase your capability as a leader, by showing you care and comprehend them.

ASK open-ended questions to gather more information.

REFLECT in your own words what you just heard to let them know you were listening.

RESPOND by first asking them for their ideas.

You may also give the speaker nonverbal feedback through nods of agreement or other techniques which indicate you are listening and understanding.

Active listening involves staying focused on the present, both by giving the speaker your full attention and keeping the discussion on the issue at hand. Reflect back to the speaker what you understand them to have said by carefully rephrasing the message, such as, “So, I hear you saying that….” Check for understanding and use “I” statements rather than “you” statements.

When you are listening to someone:

  1. Face them and maintain eye contact.
  2. Give them your full attention.
  3. Keep an open mind to what they are saying.
  4. Try to ‘picture’ what they are saying.
  5. Do not interrupt.
  6. When they pause, ask questions for clarification.
  7. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling.
  8. Be aware of potential barriers that may impact your ability to listen attentively.

Communication in the workplace is a constant challenge. The chaos of constant change in our environment can make ‘building rapport’ seem like an oxymoron.

However, continuous listening is one of the most powerful ways to connect with employees—if done right.

“If your mouth is open, you’re not listening.”  Budda