The art of listening

Active listening is very important in most walks of life to be able to develop both professional and personal relationships. Have you ever had the feeling where you felt a manager was really actively listening to what you said and how you felt? Chances are it was a beneficial interaction and left you feeling good.

Sometimes, certain interactions with others – especially if they appear walled off, rebut everything you say and do not appear to acknowledge your points – can be extremely frustrating, therefore a timeout is usually best otherwise the situation can escalate and tend to go off the rails. Sometimes you may need to give that person a lot of space as the frustration may not be about you but the frustration of not ‘knowing’ what to say.

Here are some tips for listening:

  • Often, starting with ‘what do we both want’ is a good place to start – hopefully, you are both on the same page, otherwise write down some options of what you want. It will be tricky if one person wants a totally different outcome from the other – there may not be room for compromise. But I don’t recommend that you agree to something you don’t want!
  • Try not to interrupt – sometimes it’s tricky on the phone as you cannot see when the other person has finished talking or what their facial expressions are but let them speak
  • Perhaps agree a ‘you talk for five minutes’ then ‘I talk for five minutes’ situation
  • Full eye contact with a neutral face – i.e. no sneers, or eye rolling
  • Open body language as much as possible
  • Ask questions – don’t make assumptions – if you are not sure, ask what they mean about something
  • Try and listen to specific types of words the person is using – are they more feeling-based words, or facts
  • Take deep breaths and count in your head if you feel yourself getting stressed
  • Really listen – don’t try and think up your next answer as they are talking or think one step ahead – stay in the present – listen to the clues they give you – it’s not you versus me – hopefully you are looking for a win-win situation?
  • Don’t jump and judge just because the viewpoint is different
  • Respond from the ‘I’ position – not you this, you that, you the other – that never works as you are attacking the other person
  • No distractions – phones, other people – find a quiet place where you can both focus on the conversation

This is just a ‘starter for 10’. For more information on the subject of listening, feel free to get in touch with me here.