One of the quickest ways to make someone feel devalued is to listen poorly when they are talking. Or worse, to not listen at all. We have all been there – talking to someone or a group of someone’s and knowing that your story is going in one ear and right out the other. Is my story not exciting enough? Am I speaking quietly? Does anyone care?
Unfortunately many people that listen poorly can come off as rude, impatient, or unkind, when the real truth is that many people simply haven’t practiced the art of becoming a great listener. Yes, it is an art form and should be practiced and refined just like anything else. Here are our three main tips and practices to becoming a great listener:
Great listener tip: Put the phone down
We’re writing this one first because we believe it to be the most crucial piece of advice here. If someone is talking, put down your phone and shift your eyes to theirs. This is one of the easier practices, but so many people can’t seem to remember it. No matter if you’re playing a game or emailing your boss, just put the phone down. Even if you are an extremely good multi-tasker that can text and listen all at once, the person sitting across from you doesn’t know that. Validate their words by letting your actions speak, saying “You’re more important than my phone.”
Great listener tip: Actively Listen
Also known as effective listening, active listening is when you respond to someone’s words, physically. Active listening helps the speaker know that you are present and hearing them by engaging physical motion. Active listening looks like nodding your head, offering small responses such as yes, okay, and go on.
Beyond effective listening, it’s also extremely important to simply be present. Too often we’re trying to formulate our responses without actually listening to others, and that creates communicative distance. So actively listen and dissect, and then formulate your response.
Great listener tip: Ask Questions
Listening is important in every conversation, but let’s talk about conflict for a second. Good listening can fly right out the window when conflict is present. Why? Because each person in the conversation is trying to get their point across and simply waiting for their turn to speak again. This is a toxic practice in any type of conversation. One way to validate someone’s words and feelings is to ask questions. If you don’t understand how they communicate or what they’re trying to get across, ask them specific questions. This practice can make conversations riddled with conflict end smoothly and quickly. It can also make everyday, ordinary conversations extremely interesting.
Using these three practices, you too can become a better listener, and leader.
-The Coaching 4 Good Career Coaches