Discover more from How to Lead Everybody (with their permission)
I hear ya!
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” - George Bernard Shaw
Most of us recognize that effective listening improves our ability to lead others. However, we don’t always walk-the-walk. If we consider listening as an active process, rather than a passive one, we can find ways to improve our understanding of what the other person is telling us. This cuts down on mistakes, reduces wasted efforts, and avoids 70’s-sitcom-style misunderstandings in which Mr. Roper thinks that some funny business is going on.
A few suggestions to improve listening:
Listen with your eyes, as well as your ears. Look at the person who is speaking. Turn away from your screens. I mean, don’t be creepy about it—blink once in a while. But you can watch their nonverbal cues to aid context, and you can give them appropriate nonverbal cues like the “I’m with you—keep going” head nod.
Don’t multi-task. Give the speaker your full attention. You aren’t as good at multi-tasking as you think you are, and you don’t even know what you might have missed.
Confirm your understanding. Once they are done speaking, you can respond. “So, if I have this right, you want me to… so that you can… and then we’ll receive… Excellent. I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page.” This not only gives you the confirmation that you have it right, it gives the speaker the reassurance that you have it right, and that they were heard.
Don’t interrupt. Use nonverbal cues if you have an immediate question or comment that can’t wait until the end, but let them pause and give you the floor before you start speaking. An effective nonverbal cue for this is to frown and touch your index finger to your lips (or slightly bounce it in front of your lips without touching them, or if you are masked). If they are not looking at you, then an audible indrawn breath that suddenly stops with pressed lips (as if you are about to speak but then remembered to hold yourself back), usually gets their attention.
It takes practice to break existing poor listening habits, but it’s worth it! Not only does it improve morale on your team, since people feel more respected and appreciated, but it also saves time for both the listener and the speaker, since people don’t need to explain more than once or correct misunderstandings as often.
(Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com)