Have you come across a situation where you’re in a meeting and you zone out after the first few seconds or minutes into the conversation?
Well, it happens to most of us. Humans have an average attention span of 8 seconds and so listening is a matter of practice. In fact, you might be surprised that although we are gifted with 2 ears and only 1 mouth, we tend to value speaking over listening.
“We should all know this: that listening, not talking, is the gifted and great role, and the imaginative role. And the true listener is much more believed, magnetic than the talker, and he is more effective and learns more and does more good.” — Brenda Ueland
There is a clear difference between listening and technically hearing what is said.
You might think you received in everything your boss or team spoke the last meeting but the reality is that you could have absorbed this information on a surface level in your short term memory.
Listening is not just hearing what the other party in the conversation has to say. "Listening means taking a vigorous, human interest in what is being told to us," said poet Alice Duer Miller.
Active listening requires a great deal of commitment as it requires patience, attention, and focus yet it is worth the effort as it reduces wasted hours, cost and duplication of tasks. Jennifer R. Farmer adds “ Listening is probably one of the most underrated leadership and business skills. We all know listening is a critical component of our work, but not everyone invests the time necessary to become a better listener.”
At a management level Failure to listen actively what your superiors, colleagues, employees, clients, suppliers have to say will suffer a lot of costs to the company as a whole.
How to be an Active and Attentive listener and improve your skills?
Allocate Time - Allocate time to listen to the speaker. He/ or she is the most important to you at that moment of active listening. Block all distractions and focus on the speaker.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes- Imagine what you would feel if you faced the same situation so you can speak with empathy.
Balance the information to your mind- We already have mindsets organized for different learning and observations. Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget’s says our minds have a mental category that fits our existing observations in one and new information in another
When listening it is important to accept new information that fits our current understanding and which that changes our perception too. We don’t often realize this but in this manner, we can recognize how information is organized in our minds.
Do Not interrupt - Allow them to speak their minds without responding in between, as you can speak when it is your time. In this way, unnecessary misunderstandings or disagreements will be avoided. Especially if there is a pause, it does not mean the speaker is done speaking. Then you should let the speaker feel they aren't being rushed so they will speak their concerns at ease.
Verify and Clarify- It is always better to make the speaker know that their concern is being understood and by that asking open-ended questions will help you get a detailed idea of their concern. This will build a stronger
It should be understood that you are learning a new perspective every time someone has something to say, perhaps a new way of doing a certain project or even the business. It is a key trait in a fulfilling leader and is why it promotes engagement and value in the Organization and opens doors for consistent feedback.