Sleep. Work. Play. Repeat.
This is the gist of most people’s daily routine.
Routines. We all have them, whether we realise it or not.
Do you exercise at a particular time of the day? Do you shower first thing in the morning followed by breakfast? We all have routines.
There are many benefits to having routines.
1. They instil good habits.
The repetition of doing something that works for us helps to build the habit. Just like brushing your teeth everyday helps to maintain good oral hygiene, which contributes to your overall health.
2. They help to break bad habits.
When we recognise that something we do doesn’t contribute to our goals, we can slowly replace bad habits with good ones, through repetition
3. They help us become more proficient.
When you have a routine, you start to become better at doing certain things because you do it regularly. Practice makes perfect.
And just as routines are good for us to become healthier and to achieve our goals, they can also help us become better listeners.
But why would you want to use routines to become a better listener?
Think about a conversation that you’ve recently had.
Having a conversation with another person is a relatively easy thing to do. Or is it? When it comes to the listening component of a conversation many of us find it difficult to do just that… listen.
Have you ever been caught out not giving your full attention to someone when they’re speaking with you?
When they check with you, you say that you’re listening but in reality, you’re hearing the words (well hopefully you are) while you’re trying to discreetly do something else and you’re not necessarily listening to the whole message.
Then there’s the situation where you appear to be listening when, in fact, you’re thinking about the next thing you’re going to say, missing what is actually said. Then when you do reply, you wonder why the other person doesn’t respond to you in the way that you expected.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of hearing rather than listening… and with that comes the temptation to interrupt. This is not a good habit to develop.
So how can you use routines to help you become a better listener?
Think about all of the things that stop you from fully listening to the other person’s message.
Consider these questions:
- What are your physical distractors?
Are there email or phone notifications?
- What are your mental distractors?
Is your to-do list staring at you? Are your looming deadlines hanging over you?
- What are your assumptions?
Are you making assumptions about the person? Do you have pre-conceived ideas about the topic of conversation?
Each of the questions can generate more, depending upon your conversation situation. These three are a good starting point and for the majority of conversations, your awareness of your physical and mental distractors and assumptions will allow you to address them, enabling you to focus on the message of the conversation.
But I don’t have time to conduct an analysis every time I’m in a conversation with another person.
You don’t have to. What you do need to do to help improve your listening skills is to become aware of the distractors that prevent you from listening to the other person. That may mean that you start with consciously removing the distractors or minimising interruptions to be able to listen closely to the other person. Then build on this for each conversation.
Here’s what you can do.
Let’s look at some action steps (and they can be done in seconds) to help you build a routine to enable you to actively listen during a conversation.
#1. Scan the environment and remove or move away from any physical distractors. For example, mute email or phone notifications.
#2. If you’re busy, indicate at the beginning of the conversation that you only have X amount of time. If the other person is informed then they may re-schedule or will make the effort to accommodate your timeframe.
#3. Ask yourself if you’re making assumptions about the topic or other person. Your acknowledgement of any assumptions that you have will help you to be aware of them during the conversation, which will prompt you to consciously focus and listen closely to the other person.
When you minimise the distractors, you can then listen to the words as well as the feelings behind those words. If you’re in a face-to-face conversation, observe their body language. Is it reinforcing what they’re saying? Or is it telling you something else?
You may be surprised what you learn by giving your undivided attention to the other person.
Like any skill, the ability to actively listen is a skill that, when practised, can reap rewards for you and your team.
And like any skill, it needs to be practised.
Make it a routine to set yourself up to be able to actively listen.
- Routines help you to develop good listening habits.
- Before you begin your conversation:
- Scan your physical environment for distractors
- Address your mental distractors
- Acknowledge your assumptions
- Awareness allows you to consciously focus on becoming a better listener.
Using a routine will instil good listening habits, break bad listening habits and help you to become a more proficient communicator.
And just as we sleep, work and play, using routines can help us to scan, listen and connect.
Do you use routines to help you to actively listen? Let me know by leaving a comment.
Here are two more articles to help you become a more effective listener: