Many years ago I learned an invaluable life tip. One of my teachers always stressed how we have one mouth and two ears; and that listening is far more valuable than just talking.
Have you ever asked someone to do something and they nod their heads and “yes, yes” you only to have them return with a result only remotely related to what you asked for?
There are a number of reasons for this: they may be distracted, you may be distracted, they may not understand what you’ve said, and/or are afraid or “too cool” to ask for clarity, or you may not have explained it well – all of these have to do with weak listening skills.
So what are some tips to help us all be better listeners?
- One of Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People©” was to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Put listening before talking, it’s the key to communication.
- Let others know you’re listening by rephrasing what they’ve just said. It also confirms what you think you’ve heard.
- Avoid putting words in someone’s mouth and never finish someone’s sentence (nothing is more annoying and rude!)
- If you’re talking in a place that’s noisy or your phone keeps dropping out, be sure you clarify and confirm what you’ve heard rather than filling in the missing blanks yourself.
- If you’re face-to-face with someone, maintain healthy eye contact!
- Focus on what they’re saying. Multitasking is highly over-rated and some research has found it results in being about 40% less effective. Certainly this is true with listening. So don’t be watching for a text or ordering coffee while someone is explaining something. Stop and listen!
- Let someone finish what they’re saying and learn the art of asking sensible, clarifying questions.
Communicating well takes skills in both talking AND listening. Major in listening and you will never go wrong!
Take some time to reflect on this month’s Motivation and how it might apply to you, and get in touch if we can help.