If you want to do something right now to start having more successful relationships with coworkers, clients, friends and family just STOP… and listen.
If you’ve read articles about improving your communications skills, you probably already know the single most important component of communication is listening. Seems simple enough, but true active listening is an intentional way of communicating with those around you that may take practice and discipline.
As a society, our attention spans are getting shorter every day and it’s affecting nearly every aspect of our lives. Including the time and attention we give to those around us. Commit to being solely focused on the other person during face-to-face conversations. It takes concentration and self-control, but it’s worth it.
Send clear signals
Nonverbal cues are powerful. Eye contact and an open posture give others the confidence to speak freely and comfortably with you. Leaning inward and nodding signals that you are engaged in the conversation and respect the person you are talking to. Conversely, looking at the clock or your phone or attempting to multi-task during a conversation are clear signals you aren’t fully listening or interested and it hinders the communication process.
Listen to comprehend, not respond
If you start formulating a response in your head while someone else is still talking, you are going to miss some of their message. Instead, if you hear a comment that sparks a thought that you don’t want to forget, jot down a quick note and refocus on the conversation. This can become particularly difficult if you disagree with the other person or feel defensive. It’s tempting to interrupt them or shut down the conversation. I encourage you to let others finish their thoughts and don’t allow your own feelings to dictate what you hear. You might gain a new perspective on an issue that you hadn’t considered before.
This is one of the most critical steps to listening. Take the necessary actions after your conversation to show you were paying attention and respect the other person enough to do what you committed to doing. If someone requested information from you in meeting, follow up promptly. Also, a simple gesture such as sending someone an article that relates to a topic they mentioned in a meeting shows you were listening, remembered what they said and cared.
Everyone wants to be heard. Follow these few steps to help enhance your communications and not only will those around you feel respected and acknowledged, you will also gain a deeper understanding about the people in your life. So take some time today to stop and listen… you never know what you might hear!