Are You A Good Listener? 10 things to consider
I’m honored to have this guest blog by my friend, Deb Raupp. It’s hard to be a good listener, but it’s so important for building positive connections with the people in our lives.
Listening is arguably the most important skill for building relationships– professionally or personally. I’ve taught listening for 30+ years and am more passionate about its importance today. Effective listening influences everything we do every day– with our partners, children, family, co-workers, customers, and bosses. How well we listen determines our success in any relationship. I’ve taught seminars to thousands of people across the globe, and regardless of culture, age, gender, or ethnicity, Listening is the most important skill for successful relationship building.
There are 10 methods that help us improve our listening. Many of us know these intellectually. The challenge is practicing them every day. I check myself in each conversation to ensure I’m doing these things:
1. Be open minded. If you start a conversation with your mind made up, why bother? New information won’t go into a closed mind. You must commit to really hearing what the other person has to say. You don’t have to agree with them to hear and understand them. This is where people get confused. They equate listening with agreement. If I sincerely listen to you, with the goal of understanding your perspectives, I don’t lose my own views.
2. Don’t interrupt. There are a couple exceptions to this, but for the most part, let the person talk and express their thoughts. The two exceptions are: (1) when you have a “rambler” (you know what I mean). You can guide a rambler by using effective questions. (2) someone who is abusing, backstabbing or outright lying. Other than that, let the person talk. Often people come to realizations on their own as they express themselves.
3. Ask questions. If you ask clarifying questions, you can better understand the other person. Remember, you don’t have to agree to understand. Gain as clear an understanding of the person’s view by asking probing questions. After the person acknowledges that you understand, then you can express your views. Understand them first!
4. Put yourself in their shoes. This is a wonderful American idiom. What does the situation look like from their shoes? from their perspective? If you had that person’s background and experiences, how would the situation look? Again, you don’t have to agree to fully understand why they hold their perspectives.
5. Don’t immediately interpret or evaluate. Our brains are powerful, and we tend to start analyzing and interpreting the minute someone starts talking. Stop the mental chatter. Just listen. Truly hear what the person is saying.
6. Focus on the person. Put away any distractions– including mental ones. If your previous meeting is on your mind, put it away. Put your phone away. Give the person your undivided attention so you can achieve real understanding.
7. Don’t prepare a response in your mind. Often when another person is talking, we’re thinking about what we’re going to say rather than focusing on them. You’ll know what to say when it’s your turn to talk. You can ask a question to better understand, rather than formulating your own response.
8. Pay attention to what’s not said in words. What’s their body saying? Watch their face and gestures. Listen to the tone of their voice. Listen to HOW they’re saying something. What do they leave out?
9. Avoid assumptions. We think we know what people mean. Ask questions to fully understand. I’ve been surprised on more than one occasion when I have completely missed the person’s point.
10. Seek first to understand. As Stephen Covey said, our first job is to understand– completely! Make that your goal in every listening situation. Understand first!
In conversations and meetings this week, try to apply these ten skills. It’s not as easy as it sounds. If we practice these, our relationships improve and solidify, and we create greater understanding among people. At the same time, you get smarter because you’re learning more about other people!
Deb Raupp is owner of Raupp Consulting Group that specializes in Organizational and Leadership Development. During Deb’s career of 30+ years including 15 years as Global VP in a Fortune 500, she learned what works for Leadership Development and is now spreading that knowledge as broadly as possible.