Few people have mastered the art of listening. And, it is an art. In today’s world we are often bombarded with distraction after distraction, limited time and a constant barrage of attention-grabbing headlines. So when an employee comes into my office and asks, “do you have a minute?”, it’s not always easy to give the real answer to that question – especially when it’s no. Do we want to give someone the time – of course – but listening and giving the time it needs can be a challenge. So let’s discuss how we can solve that problem:
- Be clear about your time. If you don’t have the time now to listen, explain that and set up an alternative. Let the person know, it’s important for me to hear what you have to say and for that reason, I want to do it when I have the time and focus. Can we do it this afternoon at 3?
- Be here and now. This can be tough, especially in our 24/7 online world. But giving someone your full attention means putting away your phone, stepping away from the computer and clearing your mind to listen.
- Clear your mind. This means letting go of what’s on your mind at the moment and putting your full attention to who you’re speaking with. If you’re hearing chatter in your mind, or focusing on what you’re going to say next, that’s a signal that you’re not present.
- Ask questions and more questions. At least 5 is my rule. The more questions, the more information you uncover. The more information you uncover, the sooner you peel back the onion to get at the root of the matter. Open ended questions are best: what, how, why is that important?
- Rephrase what you’ve learned back to the other person. Under the premise of making sure you understand, repeat back in your own words what you’ve heard. Then, check in that you’ve heard it correctly.
Good listening takes time, intention and patience. However it is an investment in a relationship that offers big rewards: more trust, better relationships and a greater understanding of your people.
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