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
- 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.