Rather than become a better listener, do you tend to zone out while co-workers or even your supervisor are speaking? That makes you human. It’s something that we all do. It makes sense. The New York Times reported that the average person’s attention span is eight seconds. Now multiple electronic distractions vie for your time and drag your attention away from the worker in front of you. It makes being a good listener pretty challenging, but it isn’t impossible.
These days, employees often enter meetings or 1:1 conversations with an agenda. And everyone’s face reflects this. So, rather than having a dialogue, it descends into two or more workers talking at each other without stopping to hear what the other person is trying to say. It will only get worse, as life grows more hectic.
You have to stop approaching discussions on the job with your agenda in mind. The goal should not be to guide, manipulate, or maneuver the exchange to your benefit. It’s about learning! You will be a more productive team member.
Here’s 5 steps to become a better listener:
The hint that a conversation is more about listening than speaking is the fact that you possess just one mouth, but two ears. When you talk too much, steer the topics too often, it can result in people seeing you as controlling (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/03637758909390246?needAccess=true&instName=King%27s+College+London). Everyone should be able to contribute to the conversation equally. So, listen to what others have to say and consider their perspective!
Keep An Open Mind
When you try to make new information and knowledge fit with your existing beliefs of representations you become a poor listener. This can result in you jumping to conclusions and being close-minded. A study from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, demonstrated how often this occurs (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0010028581900086). Students were directed to an office they believed was serving as a sort of waiting room for the experiment they were due to take part in. However, this was part of the experiment. Once they left the office, they were directed to recall any items they’d seen while waiting in the office. They recalled many items associated with offices but were prone to falsely recall items not present simply because they were typical office items.
Focus On the Message
It is really easy to get caught up with the person delivering the message rather than focusing on the message itself. Once you view someone as a friend or foe, you tend to accept their message based on that designation. That doesn’t mean your rival doesn’t have a valid point to make or important information to share. Likewise, it doesn’t mean your friends are always right!
Eye contact is an important aspect of clear communication, but how does that help you become a better listener? It’s a signal to the other person that they have your attention. You are dialed into the conversation and fully present. If your eyes are on theirs, then your eyes are not wandering and distracted by everything around you. You’ll also take more information in that way.
When you ask questions relevant to the topic at hand it shows that you are listening to what the person said. It also highlights that you are considering what they have to say. The added benefit of asking questions is that it prevents miscommunication. Asking questions is a great way to check-in and ensure you are understanding the points others are making.
It’s always a good idea to pause before you respond. Take time to consider their comment before you choose to ask a question or form a response.
There are a wide variety of productivity techniques that improve your listening skills. You can learn far more from listening than you can from speaking over others or wrestling control of the conversation. And you will gain the support of your supervisor and associates.