Effective communication is one of the most important pillars in any successful workplace. But communication is at least a two-sided conversation. Being a good listener is frequently more important than your ability to convey information, and it’s a skill that should be nurtured whenever possible. Whether you’re brushing up on your team coaching skills or just trying to be a better leader, use these tips to beef up your listening game.
Eliminate All Distractions
Before even drumming up a conversation or beginning a meeting, it’s important to clear your mind and schedule both. If you’re worried about an upcoming meeting, stressing over a deadline, or distracted thinking about what you’re having for lunch, you’re already starting off in the wrong headspace.
Whenever possible, eliminate any of these issues beforehand. However, we’re all busy people — sometimes things just can’t wait! If this happens, acknowledge it, let the other person know, and get it handled before you continue the conversation. You might feel like this is rude, but it really isn’t. Most will appreciate your candidness, and will be glad that you’re clearly interested in keeping your attention focused completely on them.
Engage With What Others Are Saying
If you sit and passively listen for a minute, five minutes, or for any extended period of time, you’re going to wind up zoning out during some important points. That’s okay! It’s hard to hold your attention on any one thing for long stints of time. What you need to do is to learn how to counteract this natural behavior.
While listening, build a mental list of the most important points of what the other party is saying. If this is a complaint, figure out what the root of the complaint is. If it’s a suggestion, make a note of the core purpose of the suggestion. Once the person takes a pause, or there’s a natural break in the conversation, paraphrase the important details to reiterate points. This simultaneously helps with clarity, letting you check to be sure you’re receiving the right message, and tells the other person that they are being heard.
Keep Your Body Language In Check
It’s extremely hard to talk to someone who seems closed off. Crossed arms, a tapping foot, a drifting gaze — all of these are clear signs of body language that says “I’m not interested,” or “you’re annoying me.” they’re not positions that a good listener takes! Try to keep your stance neutral or relaxed, and maintain eye contact most of the time (don’t drill into their eyes — that comes off as intense and creepy!).
Keep an Open Mind
One of the biggest barriers to being a good listener is simply closing yourself off from those who are speaking to you. If you’re closed off and keep a “my way only” mentality, then you’re far less likely to absorb what someone else is saying. Which means you’ll miss the value to be had in the perspectives and opinions of others. This is very important: everyone’s input matters on a team. If you plan on being a good listener, you have to internalize that and broaden your horizons a bit.
Being a good listener improves your ability to be social, and provides you with a strong understanding of those around you. It’s one of the most important building blocks of being a good teammate and a good leader. But being a good listener isn’t hard! Start off with these easy tips. We know you’ll notice a difference.