Effective listening is easy, isn’t it? All we need to do is pay attention, picture what the speaker is saying, maintain eye contact, not interrupt and parrot back what we heard to ensure understanding. Well, this could help us with pretending that we are listening, but would we really be a good listener?
How leaders and managers listen with empathy and mindfulness every time they communicate with their team?
The simple answer is they stay fully present and they utilise their social skills fully. Of course, under the hood, there are many more things that contribute to their effective listening skills.
Lots of people try to listen effectively, but very few get success. A lot of young as well as experienced managers are not great listeners. During conversations, they would either lose patience very soon or become defensive or judgemental, and then end up hijacking the conversation.
Effective listening is the need for all managers today. Listening paves way for earning the trust of the team, keeping employees more engaged, fostering the discovery of new ideas, managing difficult people and situations, and enhancing emotional well-being at work.
5 Useful Strategies for Effective Listening
Very frankly, nobody likes working with leaders and managers who don’t have the knack of listening. Time and again, research has shown that effective listening is required for efficient leadership. Also, people are more interested and willing to cooperate with bosses who are good listeners. On that account, here are 5 useful tips to help you become a good listener so you can routinely listen to others and their different viewpoints calmly, without losing your cool.
There is always a scope of listening to people a little bit better.
You can, as a result, make the workplace environment less challenging, less stressed, more secure, and more fun. And most likely, your team won’t feel like the management just neither cares nor listens!
1. Be purposeful while listening
There is a huge difference between effective listening and just hearing. Anyone can go into conversation with someone and have a lot of things to say. But only a few have the intention and desire for listening.
If you really want to become a good listener, start by identifying the end goal you are trying to get from actively listening to the other person or a group of people.
Unless you find your answer to ‘why you are listening?’, you will not find a way to make listening more effective.
So, set clear intentions beforehand.
2. Empty your mind before having a conversation
To be a good listener, get rid of your expectations and adopt the mindset of curiosity before having any conversation.
When we attach expectations and conversations do not go as we expected, listening becomes painful, frustrating, and difficult to follow through.
So, never enter a conversation with a preconceived notion or expectation of how the conversation should be. Subsequently, it will be easy for you to actively listen, understand and appreciate points of view that are very different from your way of thinking.
Here’s what I recommend you do to clear and quiet your mind and lay the foundation for becoming a deliberate listener-
Before you participate in any conversation, take a moment of silence to pay attention to your thoughts and emotions. Just listen to yourself and fine-tune into where you are. Then, choose to let those preconceived thoughts and assumptions go to listen truly to the other person and be a good listener.
3. Resist the urge to interrupt
Even if what the other person says contains a lot of wrong perceptions, bitterness, anger, blame, prejudices, misunderstandings or accusation, do not interrupt before the person indicates that he or she is done for the moment. Continue listening deeply. See the whole person. And first, understand the issues that concern him or her.
Remember that you will have a chance later to offer some information so that the person can correct his or her perception, but not now. Now is the time only to listen.
If you try to interrupt or correct the other person while they are still speaking, you will transform the session into a debate and it will ruin everything.
So, refrain from putting your pennyworth in even if the person says things that are not right.
Only after you have deeply listened and allowed the other person to express everything in his or her heart, give a little of the information you must give to enhance their perception.
Good listening requires being thoughtful about what the other person needs help with most. For this, you must listen from within their frame of reference. And that’s not easy.
So, do not stay muted as you make efforts to be a good listener. Instead, be clear so that you do not miss or misunderstand what is behind the words.
Needless to say, do not hijack the conversation or make the other person stop talking.
Here are some things that you must do to gain more clarity while listening-
- Draw out thoughts and encourage the person to elaborate so that you can delve deeper into their thoughts and experiences, and become aware of their deepest needs and positive intentions.
- Ask questions when you don’t get what they are saying. Otherwise, you will never be able to go there and really understand where the person is coming from.
- Restate the issue, if required, to solidify your understanding.
5. Be present in the conversation
Pay full attention to what is going on for the other person, without judging or being judgemental.
While listening, most of the people hear the words as well as think simultaneously- is this right or wrong? Where do I agree or disagree? What am I going to say in response? etc. That is not good listening.
Instead, good listening is all about being a witness, not the judge of the other person’s experience.
So, be genuinely interested, committed, and engaged in the conversation. Also, be available and receptive emotionally as well as through your body language.
Consequently, you will not lose track of the conversation due to your judgments or assumptions. You will feel what the other person is saying and meaning. Also, if he or she begins displaying emotions, you will be ready to handle that.
Here are a few pointers to help you be more mindful and present while listening to others-
- Neither judge what you hear the other person saying nor draw conclusions about the person.
- Put aside your smartphone, iPad, or laptop to give 100% of your attention. And look at the person, even if he or she does not look back at you whilst speaking.
- Be sensitive to their feelings. In case you find yourself drifting into the zone of evaluation and judgement, remind yourself of the purpose behind why you are listening. It will help you bring the focus back on the task of listening.
- Ask good questions that help the other person delve deeper into their thoughts and experiences as well as lead the conversation in the direction of objectives you want to achieve from listening.
Benefits of effective listening for business leaders and people managers
To give you some ideas, here’s a list of objectives or reasons why efficient leaders and managers usually engage in deliberate listening at the workplace-
- Encourage positive social interaction without being in a hurry
- Make people feel valued and engaged
- Hear suggestions or recommendations patiently while working on what’s in the best interest of the company
- Handle grievances
- Confront or understand a point of view you reflexively want to deny
- Help people feel better when they are feeling overwhelmed
- Build bonds and develop a sense of community
- Coach the team members
There are lots of factors that we need to consider when it comes to communicating with people, and effective listening is one of them.
The most successful leaders and managers really listen to their people.
So, you use the tips above, to become a better and more effective listener. And as a result, you will build more trust, instil higher job satisfaction, make your people feel valuable, and managing difficult people and situations easily and quickly.