Asks for more listening than talking

We touched on this topic last time and briefly above and it is impossible to exaggerate its significance. Most of us are busy pushing our views, ideas and opinions far more than we are busy listening to what others have to say. We are encouraged to sharpen our presentation skills, become successful speakers and be able to share our ideas and theories clearly and convincingly. All too often when others are talking, we’re getting ready to speak instead of listening. Yet, the ability to listen wholeheartedly and be mindfully present with the other lies at the very core of an empathic attitude.

Deep listening is a process of listening to learn. It requires the temporary suspension of judgment, and a willingness to receive new information – whether pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.

When we truly listen, we can engage with others without pre-conceived assumptions. We establish trust by showing others that we value what they say and that we take them seriously. We get the chance to clarify what the issue really is, and we open ourselves up to the creative ideas of others.

A few tips for honing your listening skills include:-

  • Ask open questions that allow for expansive answers (instead of yes/no questions)
  • Focus on the speaker’s words and avoid giving your opinions/suggestions/comments/solutions. Keep on asking more and more open questions. People want to be heard.
  • Learn to become comfortable with short silences. You do not need to fill the space with words. Perhaps someone else has better words to say than you?
  • Use positive body language when interacting with others – for example, lean forward, look at them directly and avoid rolling your eyes in judgment if you disagree with them. These gestures can also work well in digital communication.

Reflection moment

How well are listening skills practiced within your team?

Take a look again at the above tips for developing listening skills.

  • Being completely honest with yourself, which one of the above listening skills do you think you could improve in yourself?
  • If it were up to you, which of the above skills would you choose to train or improve within your team, with the goal of creating more connection, empathy and understanding between team members, especially in the current times?

Note that team discussions will not be productive if you only listen and do not offer your views, so a balance is required. Deep listening aims to create a positive dynamic – neither too dominant with own views, nor too passive in submissively accepting others’ views. Sometimes all it requires is a moment or two of silence, quietly pondering and evaluating the other’s point of view, before formulating a reply. Could it be that the other makes a good point?