Do people clam up when you show up on the scene? Do you feel like you’re the last one in on the joke at the weekly staff Meeting? If so, perhaps your teammates are getting tired of your lack of attention to the conversations they’re having that seem to be going over your head. Perhaps you need a tune-up of your listening skills, which will help you avoid career-limiting moves.
- Notes: When the conversation begins, ask if it’s okay to take notes because you want to listen well. Take great notes and capture the essence of the dialogue. Ask questions if anything is unclear. It’s always okay to ask “Can You Help Me Understand?” Watch the facial expressions and body language, as they will often highlight the deeper meaning of the speech. Get comfortable with a little silence. Silence is said to be God’s way of giving you a second chance to reflect and develop a deeper understanding. Let silence do the heavy lifting. People say a lot of meaningful stuff when they’re trying to avoid uncomfortable silence. Use that. Never interrupt, listen politely. Thank the other person for their views and express your respect, even when you may disagree.
- Great Questions: Ask great questions to build your understanding. Some of my favorites are: “Help me understand?”, “How can I help you to be more successful this year?” and “What do you need from me right now?” By asking great questions you are deepening your understanding and indicating that you find the conversation interesting enough to pursue it further.
- Watch Your Perspective: Don’t listen through your paradigms. Sometimes our listening suffers because we are judging the words as they come out of the speaker’s mouth. We can often filter another’s words by running them through our assumptions, beliefs and expectations. Open your mind and relax. Leave your assumptions and paradigms behind. Life is more fun when you let the other humans on this planet share their wisdom with you, so listen openly! You may find that you learn something very valuable by opening up your mind and remaining receptive to a new point of view.
- Focus on Listening Actively: While you’re focusing on the speaker, remind yourself to listen actively, without filtering and learn to listen at a foundational level. Pay attention to the tone, the meaning, the message behind the words and the spaces between the words, where meaning will often lurk. Much of the meaning of a conversation is contained in the tone of voice of the speaker and their body language. Facial expressions, gestures, hand movements, all of these will add to the context of what you’re discussing if you’re attentive to them. Get more meaning out of your conversations by participating fully in receiving ALL of the information your partner is sending your way.
- Control Your Reactions: Remember this, you do NOT have to react every time that you disagree with someone. Remind yourself to breathe and to listen with purpose. Your purpose should be to understand the speaker at a deep level and set yourselves up to help one another to win. When you listen with the intent to understand your partner’s message, you will reach and maintain a calmer state and be more open to receiving the message that the other person is delivering. If you disagree, the time will come for you to share your opinion, but you needn’t rush. Get a drink of water, chew on the options for a minute, and then, when you’re ready to discuss with a deep calm, dig in and develop the dialogue with a worthy intent.
- Eye Contact: Remember how important it is to focus on the speaker and to make and maintain eye contact. This is especially difficult to do when taking your notes, so consider putting down the pen and just listening to the conversation. You will need to ask the speaker to slow down occasionally so you can avoid writer’s cramp and you can look up from your tablet every now and then, and let them know that you’re focused on them and their viewpoint. Smile and remain an open posture so your partner will feel warmth and receptiveness.
Being able to communicate with your peers is a great gift, and some of us have it naturally and some of us don’t. If you’re one of those who struggle to communicate with your teammates clearly, perhaps it’s time that you got to work on becoming a better listener so that you can collaborate with your co-workers more effectively.
Michael is a trusted advisor to CEOs, their leadership teams, and emerging leaders of mid-sized companies in the technology sector. Michael is hosting a communications workshop at his office in Prior Lake on February 24th of 2017. Spaces are limited to 8 business leaders, so reserve your seat today by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Michael Beach Coaching & Consulting, “Delivering Ambitious Results.”