How well do you listen?
At school we're taught to read and write yet we're not taught to listen … it's assumed that we can all do it.
Have you ever been caught out focusing on a task while someone is trying to speak with you? You say that you're listening whilst doing something else but in reality you're hearing the words (well hopefully you are) and not listening to the message.
Then there's the situation where you appear to be giving your full attention to the person when in actual fact you're thinking about the next thing that you're going to say, missing what is actually said. Many people do this whether they realise it or not. The end result is that the person you're having a conversation with doesn't respond to you in the way that you'd expected. You could even receive comments such as, 'I wish you'd really listen to what I'm saying!'
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 when communicating in a business context.
Here are five tips to assist you in developing your listening skills:
- Listen to the words that are being said as well as the feelings behind those words
- Be aware of your personal biases
- Stay in the moment – ignore mental and environmental distractions
- Concentrate on the person who is speaking – their body language, facial expressions and tone of voice
- Do not interrupt or change the subject
With practise, your ability to really listen will improve your ability to communicate effectively with others. This in turn will help you to build strong working relationships.