Become a Better Listener

Posted on

Choose to listen

First things first, in order to hear, we need to give our full attention. Put the phone on hold, turn off our smart-phone and bring ourselves present to conversation. Come with respect and openness for the person we are speaking to and concentrate on the message, not the style. In other words, if we are thinking about our speaker’s fumbling way with words, we are not listening well.

Opening the lines of communication

Make sure the speaker or speakers have said all they have to say. This means making sure people feel welcome to speak up. This is especially important in a multicultural setting or in situations where junior staffers may feel uncomfortable speaking. Ironically, many people fear doing this because they are afraid that they have not understood; but this sort of misunderstanding can account for a number of ill effects in the workplace, including missed deadlines, projects that don’t match specification and a host of other problems. The meaning of the message resides in the interpreter—that has the greatest power, so we have to agree that the message they sent to us is the one we heard.

Reflect or restate the message back to the speaker

Echo back and paraphrase what the speaker has said to make sure we understand.

Empathise to build a bridge

Where there is emotion in the message, notice it—for example, “It seems like that upset you. Do you want to talk about it?” Notice not only words, but body language and facial expressions.

All that said, it is important to remember that listening is not passive. We might completely disagree with what the other person is saying, but we will know exactly what it is we disagree with. Listening gives us something in common with another person and can make them feel valued.

“Listening is the ultimate way to show someone respect.”