HARDISON’S TIPS – August 18, 2020 – EFFECTIVE LISTENING SKILLS (Pt. 1)
Stephen R. Covey said: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
Everyone has an opinion and something to say, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The problem is when people spend too much time responding and not enough time listening.
Having active listening skills benefits everyone, and not just at work. Yes, being an active listener during a presentation is certainly going to improve your overall communication with the group; but, active listening can also go a long way to settle an argument with a stranger, understand your partner’s needs, and build solid relationships.
If you’re not sure what the difference is between listening and active listening, you’re not the only one. But once you do, you can implement changes in your behavior that will improve your relationships at work and at home.
Improve Your Business Communication
There’s a significant difference between hearing what someone’s saying and active listening—that is, processing their words and intent.
Active listening means allowing for a distraction-free environment where the person on the receiving end listens with all their senses so they can accept the intent of the conversation. By communicating this way, you can better formulate a response when it’s required.
Do you use active listening skills in your day-to-day interactions with people? You’ll see your business communication improve if you do and here’s why:
You can build appropriate responses through understanding the problem. An important aspect of active listening is turning off the response-building mechanism that many people trigger while someone is talking. Building a response before someone has finished communicating means that assumptions are made, and conclusions are drawn; you’re no longer truly engaged when you’re thinking of what you’re going to say. By listening and proactively caring about what the speaker is saying, noting body language and showing physical “I am paying attention” responses, you can build a better response to the situation.
Hearing example: Sam is undergoing his yearly performance review with his supervisor, Kim. There’s a problem with Sam regularly leaving work early, and Sam is explaining his side of the story. This is Kim’s eighth performance review of the day and she’s tired of hearing excuses for shortcomings in her employees’ performance, so she interrupts Sam and says, “Regardless, we need you to work on improving this area.” Sam is offended by Kim’s short response and leaves the conversation feeling on edge.
Listening example: Even though Kim has had many conversations with her employees today, she understands that each is an individual who deserves to be heard. Moreover, each employee should be given the chance to communicate their issues. She listens to Sam’s story and learns that he’s in a bind with his son’s daycare, and he’s been leaving early to rush home to take care of his child. Through interactive questions and after bouncing ideas back and forth, Kim offers Sam some flexibility with hours to accommodate his home life. Sam feels less stressed and confident that he can perform better now.
You can diffuse emotions by not disregarding them. No human is void of emotion, and although companies have historically expected their employees to “leave personal stuff at home,” the truth is it can be extremely difficult to do that. The result is poor job performance or even angry outbursts.
Emotions come in different shapes and sizes, and they’re often masked by behavior that doesn’t match. A person responding angrily may actually be in pain, for example. In order to improve communication at your business, it’s important to hear people out to understand the underlying issue. Without this information, you can’t respond appropriately.