Learning the art of being a better listener can help improve your workplace relationships. Our relationships in the workplace and in personal life depend on good communication. Interestingly, many people assume that good communication only involves getting your point over in a clear and respectful way. However, the key to being a good communicator is to first of listen better.
Of course, being a better listener means more than just hearing words. It is very easy to ‘zone out’ of a conversation that doesn’t interest us. Or, we may hear what is being said but fail to pick up on subtle signals that the other person is trying to convey. This can mean that we end up missing out on important information that could affect our opinions or decisions.
Before looking at how to listen better, it’s is good to know the benefits of listening and why you should strive to listen better.
According to one survey of over 8,000 people, most responded that they view themselves as effective listeners. However, research actually shows that only about 25% of people listen effectively. So, it seems that most people don’t think they have to improve their listening skills even though they may be lacking in them. (1)
Why is it so important to be a better listener? According to some researchers, listening is a key element to effective leadership.
Realising that developing good listening skills is extremely important is the first step to being a better listener. What else can you do to listen better?
Here are 5 ways that you can develop your listening skills to, not just hear what is being said, but to really listen.
It is important to listen to the other person with a view to gaining insight into their opinions. Listening should never be done just out of politeness. Even if it seems that what you are hearing is of no significance, there may still be things you can learn.
Asking probing questions can help to listen better to what is being said. Asking questions can help in a number of ways. First of all, if you feel the person is rambling, asking a few questions can help to focus the discussion. You can also learn more information about what is really concerning the person. Using pertinent questions can also help to encourage the other person to open up more about how they are feeling.
Repeating what was said is an effective way to listen actively to the other person. This involves paraphrasing what you have heard. This can give the speaker a chance to correct any misunderstanding or provide more clarification.
It is also important to send the right signals when you are listening to someone else speak. This involves good body language and being attentive.
For example, checking your watch, looking at your phone, or glancing over the shoulder of the speaker sends signals that you have more important things to do. Even if this is the case, you should still give your undivided attention to the person speaking.
Being a better listener also means paying close attention to your body language. Try to appear relaxed and stand or sit without folding or crossing your arms. It is also important to maintain good eye contact and respond appropriately by gently nodding your head.
Improving your listening skills also involves leaving behind any preconceived ideas you may have. So, try and avoid the temptation to be thinking ahead about how you want to respond. When you do respond, try to avoid interrupting the other person as this will just stifle the conversation.
Another type of pre-formed idea to avoid in your conversation is to say “I know exactly how you feel”. Even though you may think you do, the truth is that you don’t know how the other person is feeling.
It is possible to show empathy to the speaker by validating their thoughts and feelings.
Developing skills to listen better to your colleagues will help win respect and trust from others. Listening will help you develop good leadership skills and prevent you from acting on misunderstandings.