6 Strategies for Being a Better Listener
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Hearing is the physical act of recognizing sound. Just because you can hear something doesn’t mean you’re listening. My elementary schoolteacher’s voice haunts me to this day: “You aren’t listening to me!” she said, before taking away our recess time. And she wasn’t wrong. We weren’t listening.
Hearing is a physical process. Listening is a mental process. You can have the most beautifully crafted, well-written, exquisitely organized message in the world. But if nobody is listening, it’s moot. Got it? Good. Now let’s dive into why this information is important to communication and how it can ultimately impact your bottom line.
You’ve likely heard the phrase “active listening” before. With active listening, you listen to someone and then repeat what you comprehended in your own words back to them. Essentially, you’re paraphrasing. The idea is that you create mutual understanding so that there are no ambiguities in interpretation. This concept of mutual understanding is central for driving action in many communication strategies
The true magic of active listening lies in your ability to understand the conversation from the perspective of your communication partner and your willingness to genuinely invest time in listening to their full story. This means that you listen without formulating your response.
We’ve all done it, especially in conflict or debate situations where you’re ready to fire back. But that’s not healthy, and it’s not productive. Doing that in the workplace will demoralize those around you, make you less of a team player and position you as more of a narcissist than I’m guessing you want to appear.
Strategies for being a better listener
If you’re ready to become a better listener, do these things:
1. Check your ego. You cannot truly listen if you’re more worried about your own personal outcome in a conversation than creating a positive outcome for all involved.
2. Stop thinking about your response. If you’re formulating your response in your head while the other person is speaking, you’re not listening!
3. Acknowledge feelings. When listening, you don’t always have to agree with what the other person says or feels, but good listeners and strong communicators acknowledge that those feelings were heard.
4. Nonverbally show engagement. A slight tilt of the head, a forward lean of the body, head nods, small “uh-huh” utterances, maintaining eye contact ... all these things encourage engagement in a conversation and are indicators of listening.
5. Admit when you didn’t listen. Or at least ask someone to repeat themselves. “I didn’t quite catch that. Could you please repeat?” It’s better to have the full picture in a conversation than to make a judgment call or decision on something without all the puzzle pieces in play.
6. Use active listening. Make sure you heard what the person intended. So many conflicts could be avoided in the workplace and so many teams would run more smoothly if people would just check for mutual understanding. Do it. You’ll see a difference in the productivity, the relationships, and the outcomes.