Listening is one of the most important skills for success at every age and stage of life. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, your marriage, your parenting and the quality of all your relationships. We listen to obtain information. We listen to understand. We listen for enjoyment. We listen to learn. Given all the listening we need to do, you would think we’d all be good at it! Not so much.
Research suggests we remember between 25 and 50 percent of what we hear. That means if you talked to your spouse, your boss, your neighbor or your kids for 10 minutes today, they paid attention to less than half of what you said. Turn it around the other way. You were listening to less than half of everything that was said to you yesterday. Hopefully, you heard the most important half of the conversation!
Today, be a better listener. It will help you to improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate. Even more, it will likely raise your chances of avoiding conflict and misunderstandings. It will help you be more successful.
Be intentional. It doesn’t happen by accident. Listening is hard work. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” (Stephen Covey).
Listen beyond the words. In a previous post, I mentioned that communication is 7% words, 38% tone and 55% body language. So, listen with more than your ears. Engage your eyes. Hear with your heart.
Beware of “autobiographical” responses. Quick interpretation and advice given out of your own experiences can shut off your listening. Instead, ask questions to inquire more, dig deeper and explore feelings the other person might have below the surface.
Don’t fear silence. We tend to get uncomfortable with silence but it can help us get past the superficial to options beyond the obvious. If we are willing to wait and not fill the silence with words while the other person is reflecting, we will tend to get a more authentic response.
Listen for the “aha” or “uh-oh” moments. I love it when careful questions cause the lightbulb to come on and fresh insight is visible. These points of self-discovery are priceless. It always sticks better and brings more change.
All of these things take practice. Effective listening means you make a conscious effort to hear more than the words that are being spoken. More importantly, you try to understand the complete message being sent. It might help to repeat their words mentally as they say them. If you are uncertain, it will be highly appreciated if you interrupt with, “What I hear you saying is…” Others want to be heard. And the truth is, you and I also want to be heard. Let it begin with me.
QUESTION: What essentials did I miss? I’d love to hear from you in the Comment section below.