You can blame smart phones, social media, the internet, TV or every technology ever invented in the last 100 years. Or you can blame our high-speed, high-stress world where manic multi-tasking is the norm. Whatever is at fault, the result is the same – these constant distractions are affecting our ability to communicate.
As the world has gotten louder and louder, we are spending less and less time really listening to each other. Speaking is easy; listening is difficult and we are taking the easy road. It takes a concentrated effort to listen properly. Genuine listening is a gift because it is the gift of time.
I found a great Ted Talk on this subject. It’s only 7 minutes and it has some great tips for becoming a more conscious listener. https://www.ted.com/playlists/92/listen_up
In addition, here are a few basic reminders for how to be a better listener. Conscious listening helps build relationships, solve problems, ensure understanding and improve accuracy. Use these tips at work, and also with your spouse, friends and kids. You may be surprised how well people respond to it – because it is so rare.
- Stop Distractions and Maintain eye contact. Put your phone away. Don’t glance at the TV or computer screen. Give your full attention. Nothing demonstrates that better than eye contact.
- Keep an open mind. Truly take in the information you are receiving without judgement or silently preparing your response.
- Don’t interrupt. When you interrupt you send a clear message that what you have to say is much more important than what you are hearing.
- Wait for the speaker to pause to ask questions. And then only ask questions to clarify understanding. In other words, don’t hijack the conversation with anecdotes or questions that take the conversation in a different direction.
- Give the speaker regular feedback. Interject comments or simply nod and show your understanding through facial expressions and an occasional well-timed “hmmm” or “uh huh.”
- Pay attention to nonverbal cues. You can detect a full range of emotions in the eyes, hand gestures, the slope of the shoulders. Words convey only a fraction of the message. Use your eyes to listen.
Simply hearing is not a skill, but listening is. It is a learned behavior that can be improved and mastered through practice. Start by slowing down. Just because everything around you is happening quickly, doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Because listening requires you to be fully present, it is also a key part of mindfulness.
Nobody is born knowing how to read and write. These skills are mastered by constant practice and listening can be learned the same way. If you and your team are interested in a listening assessment that can help co-workers understand their listening style and how to listen better, we can help you create more conscious listening in your workplace. Contact us at www.powersresourcecenter.com