Are You Really Listening?

We know effective communication is important in the workplace, but do we know what this really means? Ask yourself, if you tell someone they have good communication skills, what do you mean? Or, how do you know if someone needs to develop their communication skills? 

There are numerous elements to effective communication that I will write about over the coming blogs, the first one being listening. Listening is one element of effective communication. To be an effective listener, means you are genuinely interested in learning to understand others from their perspective, thoughts and feelings.

Genuine Listening

There are 4 levels of listening:

  • Ignoring – not paying attention at all.
  • Pretend Listening – giving the appearance you are listening by nodding or saying yes or uh-huh every now and then, but there is no real connection taking place.
  • Selective Listening – paying some attention, but comparing it to your own experience or assessing how it can help advance your agenda, also listening for what you want to hear.
  • Genuine Listening – having a sincere desire to learn to understand the senders’ message. To let go of your own experience, history, judging, frame of reference.

Barriers to Listening

In order to develop genuine listening skills let go of your barriers to listening. Some of the barriers are:

  • Self-talk
  • Judging
  • Analyzing
  • Blaming
  • Worry
  • Need to be right
  • Assumptions
  • Noise and clutter
  • Criticising
  • Anger

How many barriers impact your listening? All great leaders are self-aware so next time you are listening to someone...check in to see what is really going on in your mind.

If you want to truly develop genuine listening skills, open your mind and your heart to hear others. You show someone you are genuinely listening to them through validation and paraphrasing what you heard.

Practice, practice and practice some more

Do you remember how much practice it took for you to learn how to be a competent driver? Or skier? Or whatever it is that you do well? Like developing any skill, being a genuine listener takes practice, especially in our technology focused, multi-tasked, interruption oriented world. Be intentional about your practice and when you are listening to someone:

  • Validate what you are hearing by using expressions such as: Thanks for sharing; I can relate to what you are saying; That makes sense to me; I don’t understand but would like to hear more…
  • Paraphrase what you have heard in your own words to show your understanding. This also clears up any mis-understanding!

Good luck with your practice of genuine listening.  Let me know how it goes.

Yours in health and leadership, Jo-Anne