One common complaint about management in any organization is that they don’t listen to what their subordinates have to say. And it’s probably a valid complaint, too.
How often do we have to ask people to repeat themselves, or find we’ve had the wrong idea about what’s been said to us? In business this can result in work being carried out improperly, or even workplace injuries in the worst cases.
Poor listening also affects our relationships with people around us. Nobody likes being ignored, and that’s just what’s happening when they’re not being listened to.
We can all improve our listening skills, and as a result, be seen by others as being more interested in them, more sympathetic, and even more intelligent. All we have to do is really listen when someone else is talking to us.
So why is there a problem? Studies have shown that we spend about half our waking hours listening to others. That’s a lot of input. For most of that time we’re listening to someone else, we’re also busy thinking up what we’re going to say next, and that blocks out some of the input we’re receiving.
How much we actually comprehend is also affected. If we really hear only about half of what is said to us (as some hearing experts think), we retain even less. After a couple of days, much of that has also been forgotten.
Add to this the constant thought processes going through every manager’s head about their own responsibilities, and it’s no wonder members of management aren’t seen as good listeners.
Here are a few techniques of good listening that will help correct all these problems and even improve how much you retain from any conversation. Try them in your next conversation, and you’ll be amazed how much more you get from it.
- Remind yourself at the start of every conversation that you’re there to hear the other person.
- Deliberately resist thinking about what you’re going to say until the other person’s finished.
- Don’t complete the other person’s sentences for them.
- Focus on the other person’s words and the thread of what they’re saying.
- Allow the other person to pause, and don’t leap in with what you’ve been waiting to say; they may not have finished.
- Give feedback by nodding your head or saying ‘uh huh,’ so they know you understand what they’re saying.
- Paraphrase what’s being said so the other person knows you’re listening attentively; it’s another form of feedback.
- Maintain eye contact (without staring), and look interested in what the other person is saying.
- Watch your body language. Don’t cross your arms and put a barrier between you and the other person.
- Ask questions every now and then. It never hurts to have more details about what you’re being told, especially if you don’t fully understand something.
Every time we listen to somebody, we have to be sure to give the other person feedback so they know their message is getting through. We have to ‘tune out’ distractions and devote our full attention to the other person.
Listening is really an active process. It’s something we have to do, and not just passively let it happen. Become a better listener, and you’ll be seen as a better person to talk with. And you’ll learn more from every conversation.