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The 3 Main Ingredients of Effective Listening
In this month’s article, I thought I would discuss 3 core principles for effective listening.
But first, let’s answer this: "Why bother listening?"
When you listen, you learn.
If you assume you know best, what risk are you taking? If you take the time to ask others for their views, you may gain new and material information which could make a difference and foster a better solution. Moreover, “you save tremendous amounts of time, energy and money when you tap into the human resources of a business” as noted by the famous author Stephen Covey in his bestseller “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.
When you listen, you connect.
The other merit of consulting others is engagement. Those consulted are usually happy to have been asked for their views and this helps build rapport both one-on-one but also within a group if the consultation takes place in a collective setting. And when you listen, others will return the favor by, in turn, listening to you and this will give you a better platform for your ideas. Finally, when you listen, you are able to address people’s concerns and alleviate them.
The more senior you are, the more important it is to really listen. Research shows that leaders literally “infect” the workplace (for better or for worse) with their attitudes and energy. To understand and influence these flows of emotions and motivational states of staff across the organisation, leaders need to be able to practice empathic listening skills.
When you listen, you get it right.
With the right information and innovative ideas for moving forward, your chances of success automatically increase. In addition, you may be successful faster so effectiveness rises as well. If you are manager, listening will have helped you know how to allocate work so you best leverage your team members’ capabilities. When you listen, you get it right even more.
So listening at the office will mean:
- more effective teamwork,
- higher productivity,
- greater employee engagement,
- fewer conflicts and errors,
- enhanced innovation,
- better solutions to problems,
- improved talent retention, and
- superior customer relations, among other benefits.
Returning to Stephen Covey, he gives numerous examples of successful business deals and resolved workplace issues from empathic listening versus mechanical, or perfunctory, listening. But he also acknowledges that it takes time and practice to become adept at listening empathically.
Here are 3 tips for sharpening your listening skills. They are part of a 6-step model I teach to help ambitious yet caring professionals to improve their listening skills in the workplace. This model is called “LISTEN” and it has been proving both popular and effective for those who apply it.
Tip 1: Hold Back
When you are new to listening, you will feel very tempted to but don’t interrupt! Listening may seem a waste of time. You will also struggle to remain attentive and your mind is likely to wander towards your own opinion. When you notice this, bring your focus back and concentrate on what is being said. Over time, with practice, you will find it more natural to listen without much effort.
When there is a pause, don’t rush to fill the silence: count slowly up to 7 before intervening.
Tip 2: Ask the Right Questions
Avoid: “what can I help you with?" While you may mean well, it implies the person cannot help themselves. Instead go for: "what are we here to talk about?" or "what would you like to talk about?" You will be off to a great start and then keep up the open questions, which will support the conversation. For example, ask: “what else happened?” or “is there anything else worth noting?” Be careful of opinions so encourage facts to surface: if you become concerned that you are getting a very subjective account, ask “how do you know?” and unfounded opinions will easily collapse.
Tip 3: Clarify
Clarify both your understanding and that of the other or others. When dealing with a problem or a project, be sure to elicit the requirements of a solution. Don’t assume that you and the other people are on the same wavelength. It’s like hearing the word “flower” and assuming that everyone holds in their mind the picture of a tulip just because you do. So ask questions which elaborate like “what kind of” just like if you were asking: “what kind of flower are you thinking about?” This will ensure you achieve a deep level of communication and avoid mistakes due to misunderstandings!
I hope these quick tips will be helpful to you in developing further your listening skills so you get better along with your colleagues, learn and in turn receive more attention for your ideas.
An other article that you might enjoy reading
© Coaching For Inspiration, 2012
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