In the often-hectic work environment that COVID-19 and the ‘work from home’ order have left us in, it can be challenging to maintain consistent and productive conversations. Within your company or department, the importance of clear communication and listening cannot be understated. But the year of 2020 certainly taught us: Things are not always as easy as they seem. Learning to listen and listen well builds a healthy work culture in trust, empathy, and positive exchanges.
“Talk, and you’ll have a tough time winning. Listen, and you’ll have a tough time losing.” – Dan Whitfield
In an article for Talent Culture, writer Cyndy Trivella shared eight ways to enhance your listening skills. We break down a few of her key points and some important notes from our friends at the Forbes Coaches Council.
Allow for Silence
Have you noticed how frustrating it can be to get ‘cut off’ in conversation? No one likes the person who is continually interrupting to ramble on with his/her thoughts. This interruption gives the perception that the only opinion you value is yours. To be a good listener, you must allow the speaker time to collect their thoughts. Showing patience in conversation allows for more productive outcomes only by improving each other’s state of mind. We often think faster than we speak, but not every pause in a conversation needs to be filled with our immediate feedback.
Learning to allow for silence will allow you to learn how others feel, think, and work. Forbes Coaches Council author Dan Whitfield recalls some of the best advice with the ’80/20′ rule: Allowing a potential or current client to do 80% of the talking leads to an 80% success rate for sale. “Talk, and you’ll have a tough time winning. Listen, and you’ll have a tough time losing.”
Repeat Back in Your Own Words
Rather than quickly providing feedback to the speaker, we can more effectively digest their words by stating it back to them. Being able to repeat back their key points and reasoning shows that you were actively listening rather than merely waiting for them to finish talking. Additionally, allowing the speaker to feel heard will, in return, make them more receptive to your feedback.
Ask Relevant Questions
Simply asking questions does not illustrate the proper art of listening, especially if the matter were to lead them to repeat something previously stated. Be sure to take mental notes throughout each point of conversation or even written notes for your workplace meetings. Asking open-ended questions will prompt further discussion, but your goal should never be to control a narrative or retort someone’s opinion. Instead, you should aim to gain a new understanding and perspective of the topic at hand.
Work Toward Empathy
Have you ever felt afraid or nervous to speak up in a workplace meeting? We’ve all been there, and part of being a good listener starts with taking away this fear from your employees/co-workers. Being empathic to the speaker begins with intentionality – to put yourself in their shoes. By providing affirmation to their thoughts and understanding of their feelings, you help calm their nerves and enhance comfortability.
“I often like to joke that if God had wanted us to talk more than listen, he would have given us two mouths.” – Ken Blanchard
Communication is key. Why? Because good listeners make the best leaders. Ken Blanchard doesn’t only recommend learning more about the ‘art of listening,’ but to consider it a skill that you must practice every day. Cyndy Trivella ends her article best: “A little understanding can go a long way in terms of collaboration, trust, and productivity.”