When you don’t pay attention to what others have to say, you are sending the message that you don’t value them. When you do listen to others, you are communicating that you respect them and show them that you really care about them.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Every man I meet is in some way my superior, and I can learn from them.”
How can you learn if you aren’t really listening? Unfortunately, few people are good at listening. If you are one of them—fantastic. If you are like most of us, keep reading!
What gets in the way of listening? Here are 3 common barriers that get in the way of effective listening.
Barrier No. 1: Overvaluing talking
Effective communication is not persuasion, it is listening. If you are waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can talk, you’re not listening.
TIP: A good rule of thumb—listen twice and much as you speak. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason!
Barrier No. 2: Lacking focus
Most people tend to speak about 180 words a minute, but they can listen at 300 to 500 words a minute, which can cause you to lose focus. You have all that extra space to fill and you can start daydreaming and thinking about what you want to say next or what you are going to have for lunch.
TIP: Learn to direct that attention by concentrating on the person you are with. Focus on their body language, watch for facial expression, look into their eyes.
Barrier No. 3: Carrying personal emotional baggage
Your past experiences, both positive and negative, color the way you look at life and shape your expectations—especially strong experiences. As Mark Twain said, “A cat who sits on a hot stove will never sit on a hot stove again. He’ll never site on a cold stove either. From there on, that cat just won’t like stoves”. Being preoccupied can make you defensive and impact your ability to really listen.
TIP: Check your emotions and focus on the purpose of the conversation. Keep yourself on an even keel so that you don’t lose the purpose.
Measure your listening skills.
Ask someone who knows you well to use these questions to evaluate your listening skills:
- Do I usually look at the speaker while he or she is talking?
- Do I wait for the speaker to finishing talking before I respond?
- Do I make understanding my goal?
- Am I usually sensitive to the speaker’s immediate need?
- Do I make it a practice to check my emotions?
- Do I regularly suspend my judgment until I get the whole story?
- Am I in the practice of summing up what the speaker says at major intervals?
- Do I ask questions for clarity when needed?
- Do I communicate to others that listening is a priority?
3 Tips to becoming a better listenter
No. 1: Don’t interrupt. Give people time to express their ideas. Hold that tongue!
No. 2: Focus on understanding. Listen with the intent on real understanding, not just hearing the words - apply meaning to what you are hearing.
No. 3: Ask questions for clarity. Look at the speaker, suspend your judgements and ask questions to ensure understanding. If you show people how much you care and ask questions in a nonthreatening way, you’ll be amazed by how much they’ll tell you.
There is no greater gift than being listened to and you should really be present with the person you are talking to. As an executive coach, my job is to listen and help leaders come to their own insight. Often, it is one of the few conversations they have where they feel like they are being listened to as well. It is very infrequent that we allow people to talk and be listened to. It seems like such a simple thing but the highly distracted world we live in is often the excuse we give to withholding this gift to the people we care about the most.
"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." --Stephen R. Covey
About Jill Windelspecht
How you end 2018 is how you will start 2019 - join me and start STRONG! Mark Twain said “The two most important days in life are the day you were born and the day you discover the reason why.”
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Jill Windelspecht has spent 20 years coaching executives, leading global and regional talent strategies, managing change and developing people. She works with mid- to senior-level executives and business owners to reach their potential and help create organizational climates that lead to lifelong prosperity. Helping executives develop their leadership and communication skills so that they can build a strong, cohesive team and break through any barriers holding themselves and their team back ... and not have to burn themselves out by doing so! View her website by clicking here or contact Jill via email at Jillwindel@talentspecialists.net.