How to Become a Better Listener and Communicator
In personal life and in the workplace, self-assessment is a critical skill, but our ability to evaluate our actions and attitudes are not always as honest or accurate as they could be. For example, who doesn’t believe they have great taste or could teach others a thing or two? Depending on the subject, a perception could be shockingly high or dismally low, depending on the individual. So, how would you rate yourself when it comes to listening?
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review showed there’s still much to learn about the art of listening. According to the authors Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, many consider listening successful when it accomplishes at least three things: not interrupting the speaker, using facial expressions to denote listening, and the ability to repeat back what’s been said. Zenger and Folkman found that while we may fall back on these standards, recent research indicates that there’s far more to active listening than many of us acknowledge.
Four Qualities of Good Listeners
- Listeners ask questions that allow the speaker to share additional knowledge, creating a two-way dialogue.
- Listeners who remain engaged in a conversation create a safe environment for sharing ideas and discussing options.
- Listeners share feedback and question prior assumptions, offering the opportunity for dialogue, rather than a full-scale argument.
- Listeners include skillful feedback throughout the conversation designed to create new ways to consider a situation.
In the article, the authors suggest good listening skills entail building increasing levels of interaction designed to offer an opportunity for the listener and receiver to bounce thoughts and ideas off one another. In order to create such an atmosphere, it’s important to remove potential listening distractions such as phones, email, other people that could interrupt the exchange. The stripped-down scene will make it easier to concentrate on the words, gestures, and body language associated with the conversation. With practice, this level of listening has the ability to not only improve another’s perception of listening but could also make hearing the nuances of the exchange more precise.
Putting it into Action
Much like quick self-assessments, it’s easy to think the following suggestions should be prompt and easy to achieve. After all, we surmise, we’ve been listening our entire life, or have we? True active listening requires that we set our ego, frustrations and busy day aside, something that’s not always as simple as it sounds.
Opening oneself up to these changes will take practice and persistence, but creating a more positive level of interaction means each conversation and exchange has the ability to become something that’s beneficial for both parties. With practice, it may be one of the most important personal and business skills you ever try to master.