In today’s fast-paced world we can hear a lot around us, but do we really listen to what we are hearing? If we're being honest, the answer is likely no. Yet as a leader, when you don't fully listen you miss-out on opportunities to learn, grow, and even prosper your businesses, your team and even your family relationships and the community issues you care about most; all because you aren't tuned in and really listening to what is being said.
If we all actively listened to the people around us (if we were are present to what is flowing through our ears and into our brains, instead of thinking about other things at the same time), our world would be much, much different. Think about the hurt feelings, make-wrongs, and misunderstandings that could be avoided if we really listened to what was being said!
Why are we so disinterested in actually listening to what others have to say? Are we really so self-absorbed that what others say isn’t important to us? Of course, not! But our lack of listening does create a disconnect, where those who need you to hear them, can be left feeling as if you don’t care.
To be a good listener, you have to make a conscious choice to slow down and really listen to what people are telling you. Listening is an art and when we really listen, it has benefits for us and those we are listening to, and we all win!
When we really listen, not only are we clear about where other people are coming from and what the expectations of us are, but we gain a great sense of understanding, appreciation, and an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.
To really be proficient in the Art of Listening, we have to practice it… we have to want to be a master, because, frankly, there’s a lot of stuff that gets in our way of listening effectively.
Tips for Better Listening
- Be an active listener. Show your interest, don’t dart your eyes elsewhere around a room, don’t check the time, and concentrate on really hearing what is being said.
- Be open to other points of view. Don’t be judgmental! Set the “noise” aside regarding what you think you already know and listen with an open mind.
- Stay present to what is being said. Don’t get hooked rather by your surroundings or your own head. For example, you are in a meeting and you aren’t really present to what is happening, because all you can think about is the presentation you have to give during the last half of the meeting.
- Here the speaker out! Don’t think about what you want to say in response to a speaker until they are done saying what they need to say. Research has shown that, as listeners, we think about 500 words per minute, while the normal speaking rate is 125 to 150 words per minute. So, there is tons of room for communication breakdown on this one issue alone.
- Listen to what is being spoken and body language. A great deal of communication is non-verbal, and sometimes we can learn as much about what is being said or how the speaker really feels by watching their physical cues while listening to what they say.
- Don’t interrupt! Think about how different things would be if we simply showed people respect, by really listening to what they say.
When you show others respect and really listen, they will do the same in return for you. There is no better way of creating a listening for what you have to say than listening yourself!