You probably consider yourself an excellent employee, student, contributor but there may be one area you’ve overlooked.
Listening is an art that starts with you. It’s ironic but actually true…be a good listener first and they will follow. I know this feels counter intuitive but if you ….yourself….just shut up and listen…I mean really listen… you will end up with followers. Lead by example. They’ll actually listen to you at some point.
We’ve all worked with the someone who constantly interrupts, who has to have the last word, who just can’t let a topic or, worse, an argument go. Don’t be that person. Be the listener.
Here are the 6 steps to being a better, active listener:
1. Seek first to understand. If you focus on understanding (instead of your rebuttal), you will be much more engaged with what your boss is saying.
2. Don’t drift. If you are thinking about your grocery list or if you forgot to record Modern Family; you.are.not.engaged.in.listening.
3. Let there be silence. It’s amazing how we all feel obligated to fill the space up with the sound of our voice. Let there be an awkward silence. There is power in silence and more importantly time to reflect and understand (refer to #1).
4. Reflect back. Ask questions to expound on your boss’ ideas. Seek clarity. Is there something you don’t understand? Do you really understand the rationale?
5. Check assumptions. It is amazing how quickly our mind works and how our internal dialogue will immediately jump to the worst case scenario. Like “yeah…this idea will never work. Last time we did this it was an epic fail”…meanwhile we are smiling and nodding. Check your assumptions to stop your internal dialogue from running its mouth; and killing the idea before it ever gets launched.
6. Don’t interrupt. If you are interrupting, you are not listening. You just put your agenda first. You just shut the other person down and basically said…”my idea is way better than yours so shut up”.
Full disclosure. I’ve been working on this for years and it’s not easy. It won’t happen overnight but if you keep this at the forefront with every interaction you have, you will improve and others, including your boss, will start to follow.
Do you have tips for better active listening? I’d love to hear what you have to say….leave a comment (and make sure you share).