Working with successful corporate executives and small business owners, I come across people speaking without paying attention to others quite often. To my mind, these people do not understand the importance of active listening in day-to-day living.
Active listening helps you to learn from others. By paying attention to what the other person says, you are able to understand the points they make. Active listening is not only relevant for understanding the points made, it is a mark of engagement, respect and honour. To listen actively is not a passive activity as many people think. It involves the engagement of brain and muscles which skill you can develop in three steps:
- Thinking Before You Speak
- Listening With Respect
- Asking Yourself; Is It Worth It
3 Steps to develop active listening skill
1. Think Before You Speak
One mistake I see mediocre leaders make too often is talking before thinking. If leadership was religion, I would think that talking before thinking would be sin. Nothing can be so embarrassing as having leader who say one thing, and offer tons of explanations afterwards to explain themselves. That’s exactly what many leaders do unfortunately. When you talk before thinking, you miss the opportunity of carefully choosing your words or considering how what you say affects the other person. That often destroys good relationships.
If leadership was religion, I would think that talking before thinking would have been sin. [Tweet This]
What we say at anytime, whether in a staff meeting, sales conversation, or informal family discussion is proof of how well we have listened to the other party. If we respond inappropriately to a person, it is only because we did not fully comprehend what he or she said. So you need to first think before you speak. Make the person speaking your main focus, and don’t bother about what you will say when he or she finishes. Instead absorb what they’re saying, and make note of the key points made. If you focus and absorb what is being said, your mind will certainly process the information and give you the right response, feedback or question to ask.
2. Listen With Respect
As business coach, I learned active listening techniques during my coach training in London. It wasn’t clear why my teachers made so much emphasis on listening until I started coaching my own clients. So one day, just in the middle of a two-hour coaching session with my client, I asked: “Lena, what would you consider the best part of today’s session so far?” The response I got from her was a confirmation of everything I learned about this subject. After pausing for some seconds, the first words she uttered were: “You know Nkem… I feel I’m being listened to.” Wow! you’re being listened to? I thought in my mind!
But here’s the thing; people feel respected, honoured and validated when you pay attention to them, and also speak well of you in return. No one likes it when he or she is talking and the other party is looking at the time, reading a book, or fiddling with the phone. That’s exactly what happens when you don’t pay attention to others; they feel angry, disrespected, and ignored. The next time someone talks to you, shut down every other activity and make him or her your main focus. Do not pretend to multitask, it only portrays you as a disrespectful brat than the genius you you’re pretending to be.
People feel respected, honoured and validated when we pay attention to them, and speak well of us in return. [Tweet This]
3. Say to Yourself, “Is It Worth It?”
One reason why many people fail to listen actively is lost concentration. They preoccupy themselves with the thought about what they would say next, that they forget what is being said. They go into selective hearing mode which obviously raises their odd of saying something stupid when they respond eventually.
I was part of a leadership team of between 17 to 20 members in a charity in Cambridge. We met once every month between 9:00p.m to 1:00a.m of the following morning. Until I stopped attending, there was hardly a day that most members did not leave the meeting feeling: “What a time wasted.” Trouble was that growth was retarding in the organization, and people’s opinions and suggestions were not listened to for the senior people’s selfish ambitions. When ideas were put forward, they talked high of themselves, claiming to have tried them before. It wasn’t long before the smart ones started asking themselves: “Is it worth it for me to speak at this meeting?” When you ask: “Is it worth it?,” you invariably give yourself permission to consider how what you want to say will impact the other person.
If we respond inappropriately to a person, it only shows we did not fully comprehend what was said. [Tweet This]
I hope you find this post useful. Please share your experience or question about active listening on the comment box below.