It’s probably no coincidence that we have two ears and only one mouth. Listening – active listening – is key in communicating effectively. Yet, how many of us think about how we listen to others? Generally, a person who holds a leadership role will do a great deal of talking – but I wonder if we ever take the time to reflect upon how we are coming across to others. What are they receiving in our interactions?
Years ago, I came upon a short quiz to get at this very thing. The quiz would be distributed to one’s team and used to evaluate the listening habits of the leader. It also came with this warning, “You should not attempt this unless you have a high level of self-assurance, as the results can be discomforting.”
These are the irritating things we all do from time to time. But, by bringing attention to them, in the context of communicating more effectively, perhaps we can change some of our habits.
Take a look in the mirror – here are a few of the complaints.
My director, supervisor, manager:
- Seldom looks at me when I talk, so it is hard to tell whether I’m being listened to.
- Never smiles when I’m talking, so I feel uncomfortable.
- Likes to finish sentences for me.
- Doesn’t give me a chance to explain fully what my problem is.
- Never stops doing the task at hand to turn attention to me completely when I approach with a question.
- Stares at me whenever I talk, as if disbelieving everything I have to say.
- Rephrases what I say in such a way that my meaning is distorted.
- Constantly fiddles with an object, gazing at it rather than at me when I am talking.
- Tries to anticipate what I’m going to say, jumping ahead of me to tell me what I had in mind.
- Sneaks a look at the clock or watch while I’m talking.
- Often gives me the feeling I’m wasting my time by talking.
- Asks a question that I just answered, indicating that I wasn’t listened to at all.
Listening is much more than just hearing words – it is also about the tone, speed, volume of the voice; what is being said; what isn’t being said. We need to be fully present and focused on the messenger if we are to communicate effectively!
One strategy is to simply stop everything else and listen fully with every sense, until the other person is finished speaking. Your turn, my turn. Toss the concept of multi-tasking out the window. We are learning that we can really focus on only one thing at a time. Don’t our interactions with others demand our full attention?