Great Communicators Are Excellent Listeners
Check out 5 tips on how to improve your listening - plus how to remember names easily.
When people feel truly listened to they feel heard and valued, when people feel valued they are more likely to work productively and be more engaged with their team and the leaders.
Just think about the last time you were listened to well, how you knew that and how it made you feel. Equally think about a time when you know you were not listened to at all, and what the impact was on you and your opinion of the other person. I find this the most powerful way to get in touch with the power of listening - when we relate it to our own experiences.
There are two ways we may be in the habit of listening to others – we may be strongly one way or the other, but most of us will find that it can change from time to time, depending on what is going on, what the situation is and even if we have had enough sleep or fresh air, anything that can affect our concentration can affect how we listen.
You may recognise some of these things in distracted listening habits, which may show up in any of the following ways:
- Thinking about what is for dinner
- Thinking about what we will say next
- Thinking about our next meeting
- Checking out who else just walked in the room
- Looking at our watch more than once
- Looking at our phone
- Drifting off when someone is talking
- Focussing on an irritating habit the person has who is talking to us
- Finding our mind wandering off completely
And the list could go on… and on
Then there is the habit of active listening, which may show up like these examples:
- The conversation is two way, and both are engaged in it
- You can and do repeat back to the person for clarity or to engage further
- There is open and active body language going on, head nodding, various facial expressions etc
- There is an awareness of surroundings but not distracting from the person you are talking to
- The other person genuinely feels heard, understood, and valued
We are in a world where we are bombarded by messages from every type of media (apparently 6000 – 10,000 per day) even just advertising the figures are staggering and leading to our brains being overloaded constantly, partner this with our work life communication primarily being in most cases digital, emails, internal messaging systems, CRM’s, time tracking tools, etc…
BOOM can you feel your brain explode just thinking about it?
Point being how does this kind of overload affect our listening?
There is something we can do about it of course, which is where my tips come in, but we have to work harder at it, to do it well.
When the distraction levels are high and often demanding we need to call up some good old fashioned strategies and new habits around our listening.
1. Be fully present – this is easier for some more than others, everyone can learn to be more present in conversations
2. Plan ahead – especially for the more important conversations, although I will argue with anyone that all conversations are important, because I believe in the power of connection
3. Practice remembering names – Everyone can remember names, it’s a skill and everyone’s brain, unless they suffer from a particular memory disorder, can learn this skill
4. Learn about body language – understand the powerful postures that increase engagement and improve the ability to listen.
5. Focus – unfortunately our fast paced digital and distracted world, doesn’t promote focus on one thing any more, this is becoming a lost art, we can learn and relearn this, once again it is a skill that most people can learn if they choose.
How do we do all of that?
- Put the phone down, and if you can turn it off – if you think someone will need to get hold of you in the time frame of the conversation, pre warn them that your phone will be off!
- Give yourself time to engage properly, rushing from one meeting to the next doesn’t help you improve your skills. Slow down, plan your day, and if you have too many people pulling you in different directions – perhaps look at better boundaries
- While you get used to stretching your memory for names and conversations, take a pad and pen along, take notes, it helps activate the brain and to retain information better – the brain is a muscle that can be built when used
- If you are on a tight time frame, let the person know at the start of the conversation that you have 10 mins, or 15 mins before you have to go to a meeting, take care of that up front, then relax into the conversation for a bit.
To remember someone’s name, there are a number of strategies that people use, I use this one – I repeat the persons name back to them in the first sentence – twice if you are not too bad but three times if you are really bad – and you will get better.
Hi I am Jen
Hi I am Sue
Nice to meet you Sue, what do you do for a living?
That sounds great Sue, I would like to hear more about XXXX
The point of all of this is, that we can all be better listeners.
Here is to better listening, and better conversations