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3 simple things you can do to significantly improve your listening

13th April 2018

Listening

Culturally we are conditioned to focus on individual achievement – our education system is built on it. Yet when we move into the workplace life is different.

There are very few roles which stand alone, in fact I can’t think of any. Every role requires some input from someone whether it’s IT, procurement, another department providing information a customer with a query or sale…

So, whoever you are in the business world you have to be able to connect with others and as a leader this skill becomes even more crucial.

How do you connect?

We all connect with people every day right? Our partners, friends, colleagues, sales assistants, fellow commuters and so on. But how do you really connect? In most of the examples I’ve mentioned you are probably with the individual rather than truly connecting with them.

Connection requires a two way process with a focus on the individual not the task in hand. You don’t always have to speak but you really do need to listen. Most of us are all born with this ability, yet noone teaches us how to develop this skill. No one teaches us how to do it and as a leader and I’m guessing you’ve had very little training in how to listen well.

We listen at a rate of 125-250 words per minute and think at 1000 – 3000 words per minute.

Each day we receive over 1000 messages via emails, texts, instructions, advertising, TV… and we’ve become very good at filtering out ‘stuff’. it’s the only way our brains can cope. We delete what we don’t need and sometimes distort what we hear or make assumptions based on our own internal beliefs and values.

It’s listening that builds connection not talking!

In this 100 mile an hour world where we are bombarded with information, is it any wonder we struggle to really connect with people?  To add insult to injury in those moments when we do shut ourselves off from the outside world we have our own internal chatter going on!

And, you can do something about this.

There is only one thing you can control, and that’s yourself, so start here.

People in your team, customers, suppliers, stakeholders want to feel heard. The only way to enable this is to listen. Don’t just listen to the words, listen for feelings, meaning and undercurrents. Focus on building the relationship, on understanding their needs and wants so that they know you understand them.

There are few people I know who do this well, so here are 3 simple things for you to practice to improve your own listening skills.

3 things to practice

  1. Focus on the person in front of you. Do nothing else. Be present with them and ask yourself does my body and face show that I am involved in this conversation and interested in what this person is saying?
  2. Hear what is being said. What do they need/want? Ask open questions and check that you are not judging, criticising or trying to ‘fix’ the person.
  3. Check your understanding. Practice reflecting back what you’ve heard before responding to their needs.

True listening is an art form and like anything we do with practice, we get better at it over time. Keep practicing!

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said”

Peter Drucker

 

 

 

 

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