How do I lead myself and others: The art of listening
It is a new year and we all have aspirations to do better than ever before! Over the next few months I will focus on a couple of key aspects pertaining leadership.
For this month, the focus will be on the art of listening. Have you mastered the art of listening? It is indeed an art that very few people master. When we listen effectively, we build better rapport and trust with the other person, broaden our perspectives and become more approachable. All of these are not only great leadership qualities, but also crucial elements to the success of all relationships.
What makes a good listener?
- Pay attention
How often do you find yourself already formulating your response while the other person is speaking? Your attention is on what you want to say and achieve, as opposed to really listening to the other party and trying to comprehend and interpret exactly what they mean. This becomes even harder when you differ from their views! Just listen. Pretend that you will not have an opportunity to respond and all you are allowed to do is to listen and understand what is being said.
- Do not interrupt the speaker
We are so keen to express our views that we cannot wait for the other person to finish what they are saying! Keep quiet and allow the other party to first complete their thoughts.
In conversations with family members this becomes even more of a challenge – well, that means that your family are the people with whom you need to practice this skill first!
- Keep eye contact
Someone knows that you are paying attention to what they are saying when you maintain eye contact with them. The moment your eyes wander to other people, your mobile or other objects in the room, the person you are speaking to will immediately read that as: you are not paying attention.
This principle is equally important in a one-on-one conversation and in group meetings. Looking at the speaker expresses your interest in what they are saying. Don’t think that no-one will notice if you attend to something else; the speaker does notice and will leave the event thinking that you were not interested in what he/she was saying.
- Show an interest in what is being said
A smile, nod, or even just leaning in give clear signals that you are listening to the other person. A blank stare is unnerving and could be a deal breaker for the conversation. Do not shake your head, roll your eyes, sigh or give any other negative gesture while the other person is putting their point forward.
- Check your understanding
Once the other person is done speaking, first summarise what they were saying in your own words and obtain their agreement before you proceed. This is the test for whether you have listened attentively!
In conclusion: Effective listening is an art and the cornerstone of communication. Effective leaders use their listening skills to successfully build trust and rapport, understand problems, understand their teams and gather solutions.
My challenge to you is to practice the art of listening not only at work, but also at home!