The Art of Listening
by: Ellene Meece
Recently, in my workplace, I encountered how one feels when no cares about what is inside of you and there is only a one-way conversation dictating drastic changes.
Changes are inevitable but the process can be harmonious if we listen to those involved. Everyone wants to feel like they are heard. Listening and acknowledging what is said is the most courteous honor one can bestow on another individual.
Ephesians 5 in the Message reminds us, "Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another."
If you are a leader in the workplace, sharpening the art of listening will be your biggest asset in showing genuine courtesy to those who look to you for direction. People follow someone whom they feel really cares about them. And real listening is the loudest indicator of care and respect.
In my own training and research, I've studied the following strategies for improving our listening skills:
- Create an environment for the listening. Remove distractions. Turn off your phone. Let the other person know you are giving them a focused time slot. Offer them a glass of water or cup of coffee to indicate hospitality and genuine communication time. Then, be fully present.
- Be active in listening by nodding, making eye contact, leaning forward to catch every word and asking specific questions to what has been voiced.
- Be open to what is being said. Don't jump in and give an opposite view or judge the person who holds an opinion different than yours. Be careful to not mentally shut them down when they disagree with your own views.
- Study other people's listening habits and note what you like and dislike. When you experience an aggravating trait, like the one-way conversation I encountered recently with brisk directives and no eye contact, make note to apply the opposite to your own communications.
- Do not formulate a response. The biggest hindrance to real listening is formulating a response while the other person is talking. Since we generally think around 500 words per minute while the average speaking rate is about 125 to 150 words per minute, there is a vacuum we tend to fill with our own dialogue, jump ahead and finish sentences for them or worse, our mind wanders to another topic altogether! This can cause us to miss valuable information that is vital to the other person being heard.
- Listen with empathy. True empathy is the ability to fully understand and accept another, complete with all their feelings, thoughts and opinions. Resist giving advice to apply a quick fix or imply that their problem or situation is unimportant because you know someone else who could top their story.
- Be aware of the other person's non-verbal communication. One estimate suggests that 75% of all communication is non-verbal. Beyond the words is a mass of clues as to what the speaker is truly communicating. Pay attention to what is not being said and the person's body language. Does his tone match his words? Is he tense or relaxed? Does he avoid eye contact?
We all need to feel that we are being heard and understood. It is a basic human need that is as primary a need as air and water. Developing the art of listening is our gift to those we lead and can come back to us in positive ways we never dreamed possible.
Ellene Meece lives in Meeker, Colorado and works with her husband in their natural resource company while running her own online store, http://www.Grandmastreasuresonline.com. Currently, she oversees the marketing for the FMIN Workplace Leaders Network.
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