The Lost Art of Listening

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and knew for certain that they were not listening? Of course you have. It is fairly easy to tell when someone is not present in a conversation. It might be the lack of eye contact, the blank facial expression, or the irritating phrase, “Wait, what did you just say?” You might be guilty of this as well. However, people know when we are distracted and not actually “present” in a conversation.

You would be hard-pressed to find an effective leader who is not an effective communicator. Communication is vital in accomplishing tasks and getting things done. It is how a leader acquires information, develops a shared vision, builds relationships, and gets their team to embrace change. For many people, communication is about what is being said and how the message is delivered. However, the most effective communicators are those who listen intently.

Some things that you can work on to be a better listener:

Actually listen. When someone is speaking, forget about all those other thoughts running through your mind. Press pause on those thoughts and turn your ears and attention toward the person speaking.

Don’t multitask. Turn away from the computer so you don’t see the email pop up on the screen. Flip your cell phone over so you don’t see the notification that just came through. Resist looking at your Fitbit or Apple Watch to read that text that just buzzed your wrist.

Ask the follow-up question, and then stop speaking. Be like the good interviewers out there and listen more than you speak.

Don’t interrupt. It is very tempting to want to interject with your thoughts or give your opinion. Refrain. Let the person speak and hear what they say.

By improving listening skills, leaders can become better communicators while simultaneously building better relationships with their employees, colleagues, and other stakeholders.