Here’s a short story. One day a child asked their father how to be successful in life. “Then listen, my son”, came the reply.
Were you expecting something more? If I were that child, I certainly would! A solemn sharing of ancient wisdom between elder and child, spoken in hushed tones, with the flicker and crackle of campfire in night’s golden silence – that would be more fitting!
While the story lacks the mystery and drama my imagination craves, the father’s message is right on target. The art of listening is a key life skill, but how many people develop it and put it into daily practice? Good listening skills will help secure you a job, get a sale, create opportunities, be an effective team player or leader, and build successful relationships.
Good listening is a skill that can be learned and has many aspects to it. The one I’d like to highlight is being present.
By this I mean the person is fully present in the moment, demonstrating their attentiveness and engagement through eye contact, body language, and asking questions that take the conversation deeper.
In contrast a poor listener has split their attention across two or more areas and that has undesirable consequences (whether acknowledged or not).
Ditch the device
A common example is focusing on a device during meetings, perhaps looking at messages or emails, or surreptitiously editing an ‘important’ document, while ‘listening’. I think most of us have been guilty of this at one time or other!
Usually nothing is said but the unsaid speaks volumes. It creates a bad impression, is disrespectful and potentially disruptive. I don’t mind waiting until the email is sent or rescheduling if necessary. I would much rather have a person’s full attention than a bit of it.
Show you’re listening
When I am listening, I put my to-do list to one side – it will still be waiting for me. I still my mind and body, thereby creating a space to invite in the thoughts and ideas being discussed. If I have my phone, I put it on silent and place it face down. No distractions!
When a person is speaking, I turn towards them and give my respectful attention – and listen carefully. I make notes in a notebook that I brought with me. It’s quieter than the clackety-clack of a keyboard.
There’s more to being a great listener than this, but I hope you found this tip useful.
By the way listening is also a great opportunity to observe. One can learn a lot – but that’s for another article!