One of the biggest AHA’s we have had over the past few years is the feedback and realization from others that so few of us have awareness around how we communicate – specifically how we listen. We have found listening to be fundamental to effective communication. How we listen will determine the outcome of a conversation or of a relationship. The lens that we listen with will affect how any conversation progresses, how a relationship is built, and how a decision is made. While little value is often placed on listening, it is a skill that can make or break various aspects of our lives, both personally and professionally. How we listen to our clients determines the success of the outcome of the job, how we listen to our friends/spouse/ family determines the success of the relationships built and the culture created, how we listen to our leaders determines the success in our communities. Rarely do you hear of anyone succeeding in life because they didn’t listen to others. More often than not, it is those who take the time to listen to others and their needs who are the ones trail blazing their way to where they want to be. However, it’s not just that we take the time to listen to others it is HOW we listen to them that makes the difference.
While training to become executive coaches we went through a process of becoming reacquainted with basic communication skills, including listening. These skills are all fundamental in effective communications, and effective coaching. We practiced these skills and eventually they became automatic, just as they were the skills we automatically went to as children. Using them helps us to be transparent in relationships where trust is built and honesty is an expected outcome.
As facilitators, we have reacquainted hundreds of people with these skills and shared in their delight as they practice and realize the fruits of their labour.
Today we share with you some basics in HOW to listen to others:
- Active Listening: We are all guilty of sometimes listening to others and sometimes tuning out what is being said, not really paying attention to the words or non-verbal cues being communicated to us. Time to stop this and pay attention! Giving our full attention to the speaker and listening is respectful and helps us gain a clear understanding of what the person is saying. This way we ensure we see, hear and understand their perspective, their ideas, and what they are about.
- Focus: Stop doing all the tasks like texting, working on a computer, talking on the phone, making to-do lists or having that conversation in your head AND take the time to listen to your child, a colleague, a friend, or anyone who wants to talk to you. Focus on what is being said. BE really present in the conversation and pay attention to the non-verbal communication they are messaging.
- Paraphrase: Paraphrase back in your own words what you have heard them say.
- Make time: If it is not convenient for you to talk when approached, schedule a time when you can be ‘all ears’ and actually hear what they have to say.
- Have awareness: Be aware of when you are listening and when your mind wanders. Who are you with? What are you doing? What’s going on for you? When you find yourself not paying attention to what is being said bring your awareness back to the conversation so you can begin to listen. Pay attention to how often this happens and what the reasons are for not taking the time to listen.
Looking at the basic listening skills above, how many of those skills are you practicing everyday in your conversations?
How will applying these skills and awareness help you build relationships with others?
We invite you to bring your awareness to your daily conversations and set an intention to be deliberate and purposeful in your listening. Have awareness around when you listen and when you drift off – Who are you speaking with? What kind of conversations are you having? Notice what stops you from applying the skills above.
Being mindful and intentional in your listening will create change. Share with us what’s new and different. What have you learned? How are your conversations and relationships different?