Build Your Listening Muscle

Communication should be measured less by what you say and more by what is heard.

Listening is core to building relationships and being effective because everyone wants to feel valued and understood. That means being listened to.

Great communication is not just about speaking

Genuine listening is a rare gift these days. There’s no doubt that when the pace of work is fast and furious, lots of people are shouting for attention.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. Stephen R Covey

Listening has a habit of getting in the way when we’re busy talking, waiting to talk or planning what we want to say. As a result, we’re not connecting in with others like we could be.

· People are distracted and preoccupied 75% of the time

· We usually recall just 50% of what was said immediately after we talk

· We spend only 45% of our time listening

· We remember just 20% of what we hear

How do you think you fit into those figures?

Ben began to appreciate how much he didn’t listen, when he began to understand his need to be right, to rationalise his behaviour and to be in control. With this self-focus, he didn’t notice that others were waiting to speak or wanting to comment about what he was saying. He also didn’t notice that by the end of a meeting, no one was really listening to him anyway. Listening goes both ways.

Ben’s not alone. Many of us would rather talk than listen – it’s more interesting. The speed at which we listen is faster than the speed at which we talk – so we distract ourselves with another voice to listen to (our own). And it gets even trickier……

Most of what is said isn’t said in words

If we break down what is actually communicated:

• 7% is verbal (the actual words being spoken)

• 38% is non-verbal (the tone used)

55% is non-verbal (the body language of the speaker)

So how can you turn your listening up?

1. Be present – When you catch yourself being distracted, focus back into the conversation, maintain eye contact and ask yourself “What is one thing I can take away/learn from this conversation?”

2. Be aware of your reactions – Learn to become self-aware so that you’re able to differentiate between what is said and what you’ve made it mean (and what you’re reacting to mentally and physically). Be open and curious, not judgemental.

3. Listen for the non-verbal cues – You can detect enthusiasm, boredom, or frustration instantly. Remember to notice how someone is communicating through their hand gestures, posture, body language, eyes, and subtle intonations. You can learn a lot about someone through observing their non-verbal behaviour.

4. Don’t interrupt – Avoid the need to but in with your story, example, experience or solution – that’s usually just making it about you. Be patient unless it’s the right time to take the lead and redirect the conversation in line with the objective of it.

5. Provide feedback – Let the speaker know your understanding of what’s being said in a way that helps move the conversation forward.

Bringing it all together

While it’s difficult to stay engaged in a never ending meeting for example, by becoming a better listener, you will improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate. What’s more, you’ll avoid conflict and misunderstandings. All of these are necessary for workplace success.

What’s the one thing you’re going to remind yourself to do over the next week to improve your listening?

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