Communication is essential to success in your career. How you express yourself, both in writing and in speech, as well as nonverbals, ensures that you are advancing in that career. It also helps in fostering relationships, and increasing teamwork, among many benefits.
But there is another side to communication that can get overlooked…the importance of active listening. Listening to learn, listening to understand. Listening is a critical communication skill to master in your career.
How are your listening skills?
Do you listen to comprehend or do you listen to speak next? Listening to speak next is about concentrating on what your response will be rather than fully engaging in listening.
Now, I consider myself a good listener. Listening is a very critical skill as a coach, and a good part of our training was focused on better and more nuanced listening. I learned many new things in a skill that I always thought I was good at.
And there is always a place for continual learning!
Studies show that most of us are very poor listeners. How many times have you been interrupted in a conversation or done the interrupting yourself? We do it ever so cleverly to one another but it’s an interruption none the less. Or, have you ever spoken to someone who is multitasking while you’re speaking…like texting on their phone or poor eye contact because they are distracted by something? I submit…they are truly not listening.
Another form of poor listening is offering solutions. Have you ever been in a conversation where you are stating a problem or challenge and the other person has a ready solution for you? “If you just do (fill in the blanks) you wouldn’t have this problem!” Yikes! When that’s done to you, do you feel you’ve been listened to?
So how do we become better and more active listeners?
I think it starts with really wanting to give someone the gift of listening. By being fully present in the exchange…not half-listening but completely engaged in the dialog. I think it’s also a matter of deciding that communication is important enough that I need to fully engage.
The following tips will help you to become a better and more active listener:
- Making eye contact and eliminating distractions. Stay in the moment in the communication, as much as possible and get that phone out of the conversation.
- Recapping what you just heard. “So what I hear you saying is……” This is an especially good technique to keep emotions out of the exchange and mirror back to the other person, as well as confirm what you are hearing.
- Nodding or saying “Um-hum” shows that you’re connected to the conversation. This is especially useful for phone conversations.
- Asking questions instead of offering advice, based on what you heard…”It sounds like you’ve had a lot of disruptions that kept you from making progress today…did I hear that right?” Note that confirming what you heard is a great tool…” did I hear that right?” This also allows you to recap the communication to the other person in a way that allows them to consider what they just communicated.
- Telling the speaker if this is a good time for you or not. If you have to finish that email or text, then ask for a moment or two to get yourself in the right frame of mind.
- Listening more than speaking in the interaction.
Catch yourself in situations this week and see what kind of a listener you are. Can you try some of these techniques or others? Can you give someone the gift of active listening this week?
Lupe S. Wood, MS, PCC, is a Career/Executive Coach, and Author of the Monday Morning Inspiration, published weekly on Linked-In, and to her followers. Her specialties are untangling career challenges and choices through coaching for courageous results-oriented clients who need solutions NOW. Contact [email protected] for more information.