Active listening is challenging. We are bombarded with distractions all the time. I always love reminders on how to listen better since it can be such a challenge these days. We get into the habit of hyper-tasking to the point where everything around us is just a fog and we are only focused on processing everything that we have to achieve for that day. So hear are some reminders. Active listening is the process of looking at the words and the other factors around the words (such as our non-verbal communication), and then interpreting the entire message. Active listening is different than hearing. Active listening involves connecting and absorbing. Active listening involves more than just using our ears but involves our other senses.
When you are listening, listen. Don’t talk on the phone, text message, clean off your desk, or do anything else. Make sure you are making comfortable eye contact.
Avoid interruptions. If you think of something that needs to be done, make a mental note of it and put it aside until the conversation is over.
Aim to spend at least ninety percent of your time listening and less than ten percent of your time talking. This truly takes a focused mind set.
When you do talk, make sure it is related to what the other person is saying. Use questions to clarify, expand, and probe for more information. These are key tools to show that you are truly listening.
Do not offer advice unless the other person asks you for it. This just shows that you have already come to a conclusion on what needs to be done and you have already disregarded what the person is talking about.
If you are not sure what they want, then ask! Never ever assume. That is a huge block to effective active listening.
Make sure the physical environment is conducive to listening. Try to avoid noise and distractions. (“Can we step over into this other room so I can hear you better?” is a great line to use) If possible, be seated comfortably. Be close enough to the person so that you can hear them, but not too close to make them uncomfortable.
If it is a conversation where you are required to take notes, try not to let the note taking disturb the flow of the conversation. If you need a moment to catch up, choose an appropriate moment to ask for a break. When I take notes I do my best to just focus on the key words only.
The old expression always rings true for us. We have two ears and one mouth so we should do twice the listening and half the talking. These are critical skills that every leader needs. Listening is a huge aid in employee retention and it serves as such a validation to your team members that they really matter. So what are your keys to listening better today? If you have anything to add please feel free to express yourself in the comment section below.
Written by Jonathan Saar