Listening is often overlooked in terms of development because people assume they already know how to listen. After all, the mechanics of listening seem very simple. One person speaks; another person listens and responds. However, as we all know, there is a big difference between hearing and listening.
In the business world, poor listening skills can be costly and affect performance. Some of the results of poor listening are:
- Poor use of meeting time.
- Orders and shipments incorrect.
- Loss of sales.
- Staff and clients reported inadequately, misinformed, confused or angry.
- Deadlines not met.
- Unresolved issues.
- Inadequate decisions.
- Discouragement among employees.
Instead, listening with all the attention and commitment generates greater productivity, excellence, better relationships, collaboration, willingness to share and innovate.
Fortunately, listening effectively is a skill that can be acquired. Just as a person can improve his oratory skills through conscious and deliberate practice, he can improve poor listening skills in the same way.
Here are some tips for better listening:
- Consider your interlocutor as a valuable person who offers you the gift of your ideas, feelings and experiences.
- Free yourself from mental obstacles to listening: prejudices, liking, dislike, ego, ideas, opinions and preconceived solutions.
- See yourself as the host of your interlocutor, which means that while the interlocutor shares your thoughts, you are at his service; the central element is the interlocutor, not you.
- Recognize that good listening begins when you decide to truly listen; Listening is a task that goes from the inside out.
- Write some positive “internal dialogue” phrases to listen to before the most difficult conversations.
- Recognize that the more you understand your own thoughts, feelings and actions, the better you will understand others. Self-knowledge is the way to greater empathy.
- In all the conversations, observe your own feelings and the bodily sensations associated with them.
- After a difficult conversation that did not go very well, remember what you were thinking during the conversation and reflect on what happened and what to do next time.
- Pay attention to your inner voice (internal dialogue). When it becomes clear, you are open to driving that voice into a more positive position.
- Recognize that you can not pretend to be listening and always try to be authentic.
- Even if you do not necessarily like or agree with a person, consider it from the perspective of “unconditional and positive respect.”
- Do your best to get in the skin of your interlocutor. Empathy feeds listening and is “the ability to actually see and hear another person and understand it from their own point of view,” according to Robert Boltonen People Skills.
- Recognize that listening is positive for you and your interlocutor.
- Keep in mind that powerful listening does not mean agreeing or giving in. According to Stephen Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, listening means trying to understand before trying to be understood.
- Before any important conversation, imagine the other person’s concerns, questions and problems. You can even make a list with these elements and test one or two of your ideas during the conversation.
- Keep in mind that if you actually listen, your non-verbal communication will convey the truth. You must maintain good eye contact, alert body posture, gestures that show support, and so on.
- Paraphrase what your speaker says to verify that you have understood it, to show you that you are listening, and to be a sound box.
- Keep in mind that every time you truly listen, it strengthens your relationship with your partner.
- Practice to show your feelings and reflect your intentions as appropriate.
- Ask open-ended questions to encourage your partner to share relevant facts, ideas, opinions, and feelings.
- Summarize the other person’s points of view before sharing your own.
- In a situation of conflict, use the listening whenever the other part shows your emotions. When emotions overflow, problem-solving becomes difficult until the other party feels it has been heard.
- Keep in mind that one of the most important leadership skills is listening. Great leaders listen to everyone, in search of the best information and ideas to chart in the future.
- Current sales practices promote listening to potential customers as a way to deeply understand their needs and provide truly viable solutions.
- Make the effort to listen given that it is one of the most powerful ways to develop yourself and others.
Practice these skills to improve your professional and personal life.