12 Most Valuable Listening Skills
Listening is a vital management and leadership activity. Of all the skills we use when we lead our people, it’s vital that we communicate effectively and that is always two way.
What we hear is vital as we work to create rapport with others, as well as clearly understanding the information they want to share with us.
Here are some skills you can use today, right away!
1. Pay full attention
Whenever you are listening to anyone (team members, customers & clients, friends and family – anyone!), it’s vital to always pay full attention to them. This builds rapport, makes them feel valued in whatever role they have in your life, whilst creating trust along the way. So, put down what you are doing, face them and show them that you are listening.
2. Ask another question
When you listen and hear fully what others say to you, you can then ask more about what they’ve just told you. This helps you find out more, it helps them feel heard and to appreciate that what they have said is valuable enough for you to want to know more.
3. Seek clarification if you aren’t sure
If you aren’t sure what someone means when they are talking to you, simply ask for clarification. Even by truly listening, you will not always ’get’ what you hear, so it’s far better to ask to give them the chance to explain better, which helps their processing and understanding too.
4. Make eye contact with them
Good listening starts with making – and maintaining – eye contact with whoever is speaking. When you look at people as they speak, you are building a relationship, quickly creating the rapport you need to make the most of the interaction. Eye to eye contact can sometimes be too intense for some people, so eye to mouth works perfectly!
5. Summarize what you hear
Summarizing what you hear when someone else is talking to you, shows that you are listening (‘So, what you are saying is…’). It also gives them the opportunity to reconsider and, if necessary, rephrase to get their point across.
6. Avoid being disturbed
While you can be great at listening, if you don’t get the respect of the individual speaking, much can be lost in the interaction. It’s important to make sure that you create an environment where you can’t be disturbed. By creating clear boundaries about when you can be disturbed, you will mostly be freed when others need you to focus on them.
7. Say less and make it about them
The mantra is ‘Two ears, one mouth. Use them in that proportion.’ Listening is about that, listening. If you are so full of what you want to say, there’s not much room for the skills you need to listen effectively. By focusing fully on the other person and what they are saying, you will be a much better listener. Say less.
8. Follow through with what you say you will
Although it might not sound like it’s a listening skill, this is. By ensuring that you hear properly and reflect on when action is expected of you, you will show you are a good listener and build trust and respect for being so. Do what you say you will when you’ve been in conversation with someone (well, all the time actually), is a good habit.
9. Body language counts
A smile. A frown. Even a wriggle of discomfort. They mean so much when you are listening to others (as, of course, what you see on their face means to you). By being expressive in alignment with what you are thinking as you hear what they say, your expressions show you are listening closely. Be the reflection of what they say, because it encourages their thinking to progress too.
10. Switch stuff off and focus
In the ever busier world we inhabit, there seems to be less and less time to get things done. So it can be hard to switch off and make sure we listen closely when others are with us. It is made easier by turning computer screens and phones off so they don’t get in the way of conversations. And when on the phone — well, this is often more of a challenge, so it’s vital to be even more careful then.
11. Say it again for effect
Sometimes when we listen, we can get confused by what’s being said and the message is unclear. After all, what people say is passed through their outgoing filter and in through our incoming one. It’s hardly surprising that confusion arises. So it’s a good listening step to ask them to say it again; to rephrase; to put it into one sentence maybe. It show you are listening; that you care enough to ask for clarity and ultimately, this builds even stronger bonds between you.
12. Prepare for action
Create relationships to build trust, in advance of when it’s critical. By informally building rapport all the time, when you really need their collaboration, both sides will listen better when there is a good foundation at you foster by making the effort.
Listening is an easy skill to acquire. When you set out with the mindset to 100% commit to what others are saying and focus on them, it will bring rewards to your leadership that you can use to everyone’s advantage in the results you achieve more effectively – and much more easily.
Featured image courtesy of Creative Commons.