Tips for Listening – Leadership Skill
The basic of leading is to have a very constructive communication with the persons you want to lead. It is simply not possible to be a great leader without being a great communicator. This partially accounts for why we don’t encounter great leadership more often. The big miss for most leaders is that they fail to understand that the purpose of communication is not to message, but to engage – THIS REQUIRES LISTENING. Don’t be fooled into thinking that being heard is more important than hearing. The first rule in communication is to seek understanding before seeking to be understood. Communication is not a one way street. Great leaders, never miss an opportunity to listen. In fact, they aggressively seek out new and better ways to listen.
In the previous blog we discussed the other benefits of listening skills. Here we will be looking into the skills for becoming a better listener.
Tips of becoming better listener
Listen with an open mind. - Be ready to hear and consider all sides of an issue. This does not mean that we have to agree with what is being said, but rather that we must avoid defensiveness. Another way to think of it is to go into an interaction ready to consider new viewpoints and ideas. Don’t listen to have your opinions validated or your ego stroked, listen to be challenged and to learn something new. You’re not always right, so stop pretending you know everything and humble yourself to others. If you desire to be listened to, then give others the courtesy of listening to them.
Silent Words. - People say as much (if not more) with their actions, inactions, body language, facial expressions, etc., as they do with their verbal communications. Don’t be lured into thinking that because someone is not saying something means that they’re not communicating. In fact, most people won’t overtly verbalize opposition or disagreement, but they will almost always deliver a very clear message with their non-verbals.
Don’t get into Stereo-typing, avoid the noise. - Don’t allow a stereotype–either negative or positive–to influence your listening. Conventional wisdom of judging a book by its cover, leads many a time to carry a baggage of prejudice and biasness. . Appearance can be a major factor, and not everyone is blessed with dashing good looks. Beyond appearance, we should also spend some time coming to peace with the fact that there are different personalities, styles, and levels of ability. One should be able to separate the noise which can clout our understanding.
Listen for opportunity.- Intuitive listeners are looking for the story behind the message, and the opportunity beyond the issue. Listening is about discovery, and discovery doesn’t only impact the present, but it can also influence the future.
Ask questions to clarify the message. - This is a positive way to show someone that you are listening. I’m a high school teacher, so I know that makes me biased in this regard, but I believe the ability to ask questions is so important that we’ll be looking at it in great detail in the third part of this series. Sometimes asking a good question is more important than knowing the answer.
Don’t Dive in. - Pay attention for the “turn taking” signals that are normally a part of the flow of conversation. Suppressing the urge to voice our thoughts and opinions the moment they form makes us better listeners. At the root of this struggle we’ll often find our ego: we believe what we have to say is more important than what they have to say. However, whether we intend it to or not these interruptions devalue their message and it is often rude and offensive. It’s not that we can’t share what we have to say, but we must train ourselves to wait until the appropriate time to do so.
Sharpening our listening skills is relatively easy to begin practicing since most of it is based on knowing what constitutes good listening and what doesn’t. Remember: listening is not a passive process, so all of the techniques above are active, including the ones that are not visible to the speaker.