Recently I have been putting together a full day training I was hired to do titled, Building Culture Through Conversation - and one of the KEY factors to great conversation is NOT talking, rather it’s listening. It is indeed something I am always trying to practice in my own life, and I can always tell when I haven’t done a great job.
Case in point—my husband Kenny, who doesn’t know how many times I use him as an example in my work, lol, had told me about an important call he had at work this week.
He called me Thursday afternoon and we talked about usual couple stuff - do you need me to buy you eggs, are you taking the car or truck this weekend, were you going to spray the weeds, blah, blah, blah. Well, then he said, “I had that call today with Henry.” - And I started to rack my brain, thinking what call?? So I asked, “What call with Henry?” - “Uh, the one I told you about on Tuesday night.” - Ahhh, there it is…I wasn’t listening.
It didn’t ruin our call. It wasn’t even a big deal, but I felt bad all the same. How could I have not remembered him tell me this?
The truth is, I’d been so busy this week after the holiday season, that I took a break on active listening when it came to my own husband! I immediately vowed (again) to become a better listener, and that led me to this post.
Here’s why active listening matters, and how you can practice it, too.
Why Active Listening Matters
When you listen with your full attention, it shows that you care. You’re better able to communicate effectively and get a more complete picture of any given situation. This leads to better outcomes in your professional and personal life (and your marriage with Kenny).
As a leader, it’s your job to understand the different pain points of your team members.
With active listening, you’ll notice the small details that contribute to larger issues, and you’ll also understand what makes the people around you tick.
Asking questions from previous conversations shows that you’re compassionate and that you don’t just care about productivity, but you genuinely care about the people you work with.
Okay, now let’s get to the how…
We often try to multitask when we’re listening, and this can lead to a communication breakdown. Whether we’re thinking about something else, finishing up an email, or letting the podcast continue to play in the background, we’re dividing our attention.
When you do this, you’re actually making more work for yourself later on.
Cut down on distractions by scanning your surroundings before you start listening. Is there an open door with lots of noise outside? If so, shut it.
Is the report you were reading still open on your desk? Mark your space and turn it around.
Calm your mind and your thoughts, and then look at the speaker.
We often think that the point of a conversation is to give advice. This is a trap we create that inhibits true communication. Instead of listening intently, we start to formulate responses, and then we hang onto our ideas and stop listening.
This can be especially difficult when we feel we are being attacked.
Honor the other person’s feelings and point of view. Wait for them to finish and consider what they have said without judgment before replying.
Ask Questions and Repeat Back What Was Said
There is magic in repeating back another person’s ideas. It shows that you heard what they are saying, gives them an opportunity to clarify, and also helps you retain the information and deepen your understanding.
You can say, “I’m hearing that you feel…. Is that right? Can you repeat what you were saying about…. I want to make sure I understand.”
Listening is a powerful tool. It shows we care, it shows we want to better understand the people around us, and it enhances communication. Practice listening with your full attention, and see how it improves your relationships in all aspects of your life.