...We are Hard of Listening!
It’s true! Most of us hear everything around us. We hear the familiar noises of our day (traffic, radio, family etc.) and it reminds us of where we are and what we are doing. But are we truly listening to what we hear when it matters most and how do we know if we are or not?
Jim Cathcart once said, “Listening is wanting to hear”. The implication in his words is listening is a choice, a choice to truly listen to what is being heard. When I conduct Leadership Communications workshops, the topic of listening is always part of the agenda. Listed below are five ways a leader can choose to become a more effective active listener.
- Take Time to Listen – It does take time to listen effectively as a discussion cut short due to distractions or interruptions will not yield its full implications. Taking time to listen means being in the moment both physically AND mentally. We all know that person who is looking at you, but is also looking through you as if to want to be somewhere else.
- Be Attentive to the Speaker – When someone speaks to you, they do so because the topic is important to them. Even if an issue ranks lower on your importance scale, paying attention to them allowed me to better formulate my own ideas as a leader. No leader can afford to be perceived as someone who does not care about his or her team because they are not attentive to what their team is saying. Yet we see it happen nearly every day!
- Listen with an Open Mind – I have learned much in my career by being attentive to people whose views I did not agree with. If nothing else, it provides a more complete picture of the facts. In this day and age of too much information and not enough knowledge, listening with an open mind will level that imbalance.
- Listen for Feelings – Emotional Intelligence is not new to the realm of leadership any more. It is a given that effective leaders leverage emotional intelligence as a success factor and do so because they can listen for feelings. They are not only listening to the words, but are listening to how the words are spoken. Tone, hesitation, speed and pitch all contribute to understanding the feelings involved in the discussion.
- Listen for Retention – How many of us heard a great joke or story a few days ago and now have the opportunity to re-tell it and cannot remember a single word? In a leadership scenario, that lack of retention could be the difference between success and failure. Previously in these pages I spoke of repetition as the key to retention. Frequently summarizing what you hear also helps retain the context of the discussion even if the content is not readily retained.
We define Effective Communications as the sender and receiver understanding the message in the same context. Active listening is a crucial component to successfully understanding what is being said, how it is being said and the meaning of what is being said.
If “Listening is wanting to hear”, what are you wanting to hear?