Most people consider themselves good listeners, but genuinely listening to others is a rare skill.
What is effective listening?
Everyone wants to be heard and understood (especially your association’s members). To truly listen, one must actively absorb information, show interest, and provide feedback that reassures the speaker that you’re receiving their message.
It sounds simple, but in reality, most of us haven’t mastered this art. Any number of things can interfere with our ability to listen actively – our thoughts might get in the way, we may focus on external distractions instead of the listener, or perhaps we jump to conclusions about what the speaker is communicating.
Why it matters:
An effective listener digests information, which enables them to make informed decisions and to provide authentic feedback.
Being an effective listener also:
- Increases others’ trust in you
- Reduces conflict
- Provides a better understanding of how to motivate others.
- Creates a higher level of commitment from your members
- Builds better relationships overall
- Reduces errors and saves time
Five Ways to Become a Better Listener:
1. Observe body language:
It’s critical to maintain eye contact. Face the speaker and ignore distractions.
Traits of shyness, or emotions (like guilt), might keep the speaker from maintaining eye with you. Keep your focus on them, paying full attention. It reinforces the message that what they are saying is important to you.
Assess non-verbal cues to detect feelings of enthusiasm, boredom, or irritation. Pay attention to the speaker’s eyes, mouth, and posture to get the full picture.
2. Listen to the words and keep an open mind:
Listen to the speaker without judgment or jumping to conclusions. Form a mental model of what’s being communicated. If you are listening for long spans, remember key takeaways and concentrate on those.
Do not spend your listening time planning what to say next. It’s not possible to effectively listen and rehearse at the same time.
3. Avoid interrupting:
People think and speak in different cadences and at various rates. Slow your mental pace to match theirs; this helps you resist interrupting to complete their sentence or offering a solution before they are finished.
Interrupting sends negative messages to others, like:
- “I’m more important than you are.”
- “What I have to say is more interesting or relevant.”
- “I don’t really care what you think.”
- “This is a contest, and I’m going to win.”
Stay on track; don’t ask questions unless they pertain to the topic. Wait until they pause before asking a question.
4. Show empathy:
A great listener will sense what the speaker is conveying, so put yourself in their place. When the speaker sees empathetic facial expressions from you, they know you are hearing them.
5. Give regular feedback:
If clarity is needed, paraphrase what was said to gain a better understanding. Or, simply show them you understand with nods and cues like “Uh-huh.”
To confirm your understanding, restate instructions and messages. This ensures understanding on both ends.
When it comes to interaction with association members and staff, effective listening is a valuable talent. Interpersonal communication is a multi-layer channel, and navigating its path requires a dedicated effort. Consistently practicing concentration and focus is the key to success.