Whilst we all acknowledge that listening is pivotal to any meaningful interaction, we constantly witness examples of poor listening and may even catch ourselves not making a conscious effort to listen. In a previous nugget I wrote about the stages of listening (https://en.goldhammer-coaching.com/post/listening-1), and in this one I want to lay out a few of the do’s and don’ts of listening when you are in conversation with others.
Let’s start with the DO’s:
o Be present | This is an easy one you may think, well think again. How often do we sit in meetings and catch our thoughts entertaining topics that are different to the ones that are being discussed. “Will I be in time for the next meeting?” “My feet are cold, why is the air conditioning set so low?” “Where can I interject in the conversation to make my point?” These are only a few examples of what is going through our heads. Acknowledging that this is happening is a first step to getting better at being present.
o Show real interest and attention | Not interested in the person you are talking to and/or what they have to say? They will notice and it is probably better not to have the meeting in the first place.
o Make and keep eye contact | Note: This is different from staring at someone.
o Control your facial expression | Boredom and disinterest shows
o Allow others to finish speaking | Don’t assume you know what they are going to say - you may be surprised
o Paraphrase, summarize and repeat back | Check that what you think you have understood is in fact what the other person said
o Allow for pauses | It can be hard to sit through silence, but it is worth it.
o Send signals to indicate you are listening | Nod your head, say “hmmm” or “aha”
And here are a few DON’Ts:
o Accept phone calls during a conversation | If you expect an urgent call, tell the other person upfront and apologize should your phone ring
o Look out the window | This is signaling disinterest even if it is unintentional
o Use what is being said as a launchpad for your own story |
o Interrupt and correct | Whilst these may only be small disruptions to the conversation flow they take others out of their thinking pattern unnecessarily
o Check your watch | If you want to signal that you are under time pressure, say so and agree on a different time and date to meet
o Read emails, texts, etc. | Multi-tasking is a myth, our brains are not designed that way; we cannot read and listen at the same time and understand what we are taking in through both channels
Did you notice where you can potentially improve your listening skills? The do’s and don’ts listed above are only a few. Reflect on those and observe yourself in conversations – this will get you started.
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