Authentic communication occurs when we listen to one another. Relationships and trust deepen when our communication results in each of us feeling heard, understood and valued. I believe listening is a gift because when I do it well, people genuinely remark, “I really appreciate you listening.”
Are you a good listener, even a great listener? Think about the times when you listen best. What’s the setting, who is involved, and what’s the topic? Take a moment and reflect specifically on what you do to ensure you’re listening deeply.
Now think of times when you struggle. What gets in your way… what emotions or thoughts do you experience… would I see anything in your behavior that suggests you’re not listening?
I’m not a gambler but I’ll make this bet… there are times when you do well and others when you struggle. If you’ve taken a moment to reflect, then I’ve helped you raise your awareness and develop insight about your listening. I encourage you to write down what you’ve identified and commit to taking action to limit the thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that get in your way and embody those that promote and result in understanding.
Here are a couple of ideas that have helped me improve my listening.
Check your emotional operating system to assure you listen with empathy and curiosity.
Eliminate distractions and try to physically get eye to eye.
Allow people time to finish their thoughts which means allowing for silence.
Express value in what they’ve shared and then ask questions. This can sound like “tell me more" or asking nuanced questions in context with what they’ve said.
Hear “their truth” and use self-talk to stay engaged especially when hearing a truth different from yours.
Work to fully understand before responding which sometimes is simply expressing appreciation for what's been shared.
Listening requires energy, awareness, patience, and practice. To become a better communicator, focus on becoming a better listener. To become a better leader, work to become a great listener.