Wharton School Professor, Adam Grant, Ph.D, talked about one of the most effective leaders he’d met and credited his success to one attribute, that of a good listener.
Hearing, attending to, understanding, evaluating, and responding to spoken messages is all part of the listening process.
Business journalist Marshall Goldsmith said of listening, “the only difference between us and the super-successful among us is that the greats do this all the time. It’s automatic. There’s no on-off switch for caring, empathy, and showing respect. It’s always on.”
You may be surprised to learn that listening skills studies among North American adults reflects a mere 25% efficiency rate, meaning that most of us could use some help in becoming better listeners.
As you work on becoming a skilled listener, it is important to remember that first it takes a willingness to do so, second it takes practice and third, it takes more practice. To help get you started, here are some skills that you may want to consider adopting:
- Stop talking—sounds simple, but you’d be surprised at how many people have difficulty with this, but it is difficult to listen while you are the one doing all the talking.
- Ask questions—if you find that you’re monopolizing a conversation, stop yourself by asking questions. Make sure they are open ended questions, giving the other person an opportunity to give more than a one-word answer. You may be surprised to learn things about the other person or their subject matter, that you hadn’t known before.
- Show interest—be attentive to what the other person is saying, looking for how they say things, what they might not be saying, and put yourself in their shoes to better understand and empathize with them. Remember to withhold judgment and criticism.
- Avoid interruptions—attentive listeners do not interrupt or talk over the other person. Give them your undivided attention and allow the person to finish their thoughts before responding. Then, react to the thoughts, not the speaker, by looking at the ideas they presented. As an active listener, it is your responsibility to reflect their feelings, meanings or conclusions back to them, thereby assuring the other person that you did hear what they said and that you understand what they meant. This also allows for any miscommunication to be identified and clarified.
How would you rate yourself as a listener?
Consider your habits and behaviors that dominate your daily communication and identify those that may not be serving you well and ask yourself these questions:
How often are you engaging in these undesirable listening habits?
Are there certain circumstances that inhibit your listening effectiveness?
Your answers will create a framework from which you can begin to work on improving your listening prowess.
The University of Minnesota, in a listening research study stated that 70% of the day for an average person is spent in some type of communication and of that 45% is listening. With that much listening every day, improving your listening abilities will definitely make an impact.
Not only will you increase your interpersonal relationships, but improved listening can increase your knowledge, decision making abilities and will help you be more successful in your job and in your life. What are you waiting for? Identify your areas of listening improvement today!