We all want to be heard, valued, and appreciated. Part of being heard and valued is actually letting other people fulfill that want and need. In order to effectively work with customers, co-workers and even friends and family, you’ll need to leverage active listening skills in order to receive the whole message accurately and build trust with others.
Here are some tips to help you grow in your active listening efforts.
Clear the distractions
Think about all the distractions that you have going on around you on a daily basis. Your computer is pinging you with emails and instant messages, your phone is constantly nudging you and smart watches are pulling at you for a quick look. On top of all the technology barriers, are the real-life issues that you go through; maybe it’s a tough conversation that you need to have at work, relationship challenges in your personal life, or health issues that you going through. Distractions everywhere!
All of those distractions are barriers when it comes to actively listening to clients, co-workers and friends, and family. Here are some tips to eliminate the distractions around you:
- Lose the electronics: Put away all of your electronics so they won’t be a distraction for you. That means taking the phone off the table, closing the laptop or tablet, or setting your CPU to sleep mode. When I traveled a lot in operations, I would enter my visit on the laptop while having my wrap-up conversations with the leader. I thought it was a great use of my time in being to log the visit while still giving the person the time to share what they wanted to. What I learned is that I wasn’t getting the true vulnerable information that I needed to hear, because they felt like I was distracted. I still entered in my visits before I left, but I made sure I listened to the important stuff before opening up my laptop to do work.
- Use your eyes to help your ears. If you are easily distracted or prone to be a very detailed focus person, your eyes can work against you while trying to actively listen to someone else and most random things that catch your attention will draw it away from the person sharing information with you. Try to focus your eyes on the person while they share. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it will get easier with time. If locking eye contact is far out of your comfort zone, try it in small segments and then focus on something else close by.
Utilize your skills for active listening
Active listening is all about listening with the intent to learn. Here are five areas to consider in order to be a better listener to others.
- Be attentive and lose the distractions!
- Ask Questions: Ask open-ended questions to show your level of engagement and probing questions to dig further into the topic being discussed.
- Reflect back: Paraphrase what you are hearing to confirm your understanding and reflect back on the feeling and tenor of emotion being communicated to you.
- Get clarity: Don’t be afraid to ask for further clarification as needed.
- Summarize: Summarize the conversation so the person feels good about their message being received and you have confidence in taking away the right message.
The benefits of active listening
Although all of your effort is going towards the other person, there are benefits that you will both receive as you strengthen your active listening skills.
- It opens the road to building trust. Actively listening to someone shows that you genuinely care about them, their thoughts, and their opinions.
- Increases your approachability with others. When people see and know that you are truly listening, it makes you more approachable as a person and as a leader.
- Saves you time (and money). Having great listening skills helps ensure that you get the information right the first time. It also cuts down on needed follow-up and clarification later.
- Helps cut off problems early. Taking the time to really listen to someone helps you pick on the small but important aspects of the conversation. You’ll have a better opportunity to dig into what is being said, and what is not being said and pick up on subtle clues from the person’s non-verbal communication.
Active listening doesn’t have to be hard once you’ve rid yourself of the distraction and are making an intent to be involved in the conversation. Show others you care by taking the time to listen.
Make a better tomorrow.