Listening. Possibly not a skill you’ve ever given much thought. However, trust me when I say it’s one of the most powerful skills which you can possess. Especially in business.
Really listening has a name – active listening. Active listening is where your mind focuses on what’s being said, rather than considering what you’ll say next. Active listening involves some conscious effort, but it’s worth it. This active listening has been shown to improve group productivity, enrich workplace relationships and even boost your own mood!
Willing to give active listening a try? Of course you are, the rewards are plentiful and doing so is free. However, you’ll soon find out that really listening is much harder than it sounds. Effectively, you need to stop multitasking and pay attention, and ensure that you really understand what the other person has told you.
Here are 3 points I’ve learnt to aid your active listening skills:
1. Be fully in the moment. Zone into what’s being said – I subconsciously tell myself “right time to switch the active listening on”. This really does work, the only difficulty is turning it back off again.
Try and stop your own emotions from taking centre stage. Often when we find ourselves deep in conversation, the other person may say something that has you feeling sad, angry, worried, and jealous – let’s face it, we can experience a whole rainbow of emotions during just one conversation. The issue here is that when this happens we stop focusing on what’s being said and instead examine our own feelings. If you sense this happening try consciously make an effort to refocus – it takes practice, but you’ll get there.
2. Identify key points and demonstrate that you understand. Focus on the key points being made by the speaker and ensure your comments demonstrate your understanding.
Little trick that works for me: while the speaker is talking, I repeat back the main points of the conversation to myself. Don’t repeat out loud or you’ll look a little crazy. Repetition helps the key points stick in the mind and it also aids concentration.
3. Keep an open mind & develop your curiosity. The best way to actively listen is to develop a real interest in what’s being said. Open your mind and develop your curiosity, it’s a fantastic way to learn, build on your work relationships and live in the moment.
Active listening is much like any other skill it takes practice to get it right. Strategies such as finding a distraction-free place for your conversation, keeping good eye contact and even making notes can all help you stay in the moment.
Active listening isn’t just powerful skill in business – it’s important for everyone! Once you start actively listening you’ll find others also model your behaviour and before you know it the whole world will be actively listening… okay, that might be a little unrealistic, although world where we all really listen to each other would surely be a more positive place.