23 Apr Are You Winning the Listening Game? Part III
Final round: all points are doubled. Active listening pro tips.
Two weeks ago, I admitted to all the world that I used to be a bad listener, and last week I explained a few tips like gamification that have helped me become a better listener. It’s officially time to go deep and explore a couple of highly effective – but seldom practiced – aspects of active listening that will take your listening skills to the next level. According to eMentorConnect, active listening is “the ability to listen and internalize what a speaker is saying, both verbally and nonverbally”. Progress in the world of business is nearly impossible without some basic facility with active listening, so you’ve clearly got the basics… but the pursuit of advanced opportunities in the workplace requires knowledge of advanced listening strategies. So let’s consider a few!
Know thyself (and then forget thyself).
Your opinions are among the worst enemies of active listening. When you need to dial it in, make a point to temporarily suspend judgment. Allow space for the listener to share the entirety of their idea or concept before you allow your opinion to come rushing back in. Certain verbal triggers can cause our ears to slam shut because we don’t agree or don’t like what the listener is saying. Know your triggers and instead of unconsciously allowing your brain to turn off your ears, use that ‘uh oh’ feeling to consciously lean in on the conversation. (I find this practice to be surprisingly refreshing, because I’m not busy trying to build a counterargument!) Provide the speaker with a blank canvas and let them finish painting before you scrutinize the image. Try this and you’ll quickly learn that that is not a passive exercise, it’s really challenging not to let the opinions coming rushing in!
Use Your Whole Body
Scientists tell us that the majority of our perspectives on another person is based on body language. Why? Imagine back to a time when we cave dwellers weren’t particularly verbal communicators. Early humans intent on surviving had to be exceptionally keen on reading body language, because the inability to do so didn’t end in a simple disagreement. Life is certainly less savage this modern age, but our reliance on reading body language persists. You know the basics: eye contact, leaning in, mirroring the speaker’s posture, nodding at appropriate times. Equally important is that there’s literally nothing between you and the speaker that would prevent them from reading your body language. This includes digital devices, other people, desks – even tables, if you can manage it. You’ll find this helps you dial it in even better, because you have less distractions as well.
I Heard You Through the Grapevine
A good summarization at the end of a conversation is the handshake at the end of a signed contract. Everyone walks away with a sense of agreement. Note that the agreement is not necessarily on the content of the discussion, but that everyone has the same mental picture of the concepts conveyed. Summarization is also important for committing the content to memory, and articulating any action items that may have arisen from the conversation,
(Protip: Summarization is not only good practice for agreement, but also a trigger for my fellow lazy listeners. Our brains quickly become exhausted from active listening, and the exercise of summarizing tells my brain that the arduous task of active listening is coming to an end.)
If your company is serious about productivity and team dynamics, they likely partner with a company like eMentorConnect to offer active listening training. These action-packed sessions provide a comprehensive delivery of active listening basics for those who may have recently entered the workforce, as well as highly advanced techniques for C-suite veterans intent on addressing their own skillset shortcomings. Ask your HR rep today – and listen intently to their response!