The Power Of Listening

Have you heard the saying? “We have two ears and one mouth to let us know that we should listen twice as much as we speak.”—unknown

One of the most important skills to hone as a coach of  managers and individuals is the ability to listen. Listening is not only about the words, but also about meanings spoken and not spoken, the tone of the voice, the speed with which the person expresses themselves, the breathing patterns and the volume and words that are chosen. Each aspect brings something to the table of understanding and learning.

Becoming a good listener can improve your employment, promotion and relationship opportunities.

Everyone wants to be heard. We all have opinions and ideas that often need a listener to help them grow to maturity. Sometimes it may be that it helps us feel respected or valued when we are heard by another. There are many varied reasons why being heard is important for us. Think about the people in your life and work. With whom would you rather be stranded on an island or any place for that matter: a thoughtful listener and communicator or one that speaks constantly and rarely takes a breath? It is generally unanimous: the thoughtful listener wins!

With that person you thought of in mind, let’s discuss HOW we can become better listeners and the reasons that it will positively impact our world of work. The how is not all that easy. Developing good listening skills requires two things: One; we honestly recognize where we are on the good listener scale and begin to evaluate ourselves and two; we break old listening habits that are not working and establish new ones that enhance our ability to communicate and learn.

Recognizing our hindering listening skills requires the help of  a trusted colleague or a friend or a coach from whom you can hear constructive feedback. Rarely do we realize on our own that we are not listening. Ask these trusted people to evaluate your listening skills. Do they feel heard by you? Do they think that you valued their input, ideas and stories? Ask them both; the reasons that they do feel heard and valued and also why not. Have you ever played the child’s game of Simon Says? It is all about listening.

One habit that may be recognized as hindering listening, especially when we are nervous, perhaps in an interview, might be that of finding ourselves thinking of how we will respond to the speaker instead of truly listening. We are so worried about our intelligent response that we can often completely miss what is being said. Another hindering habit is thinking of a similar story that we can relate. This often comes across as one-up-manship. Can you relate to a time when you told a pretty good story or offered an insight, only to have your “listener” immediately tell a bigger story? When that happens, there can be a sense that the listener does not really care about us, or what we have to share, but they are concerned only about themselves. Usually this is NOT the listener’s intension, but it can easily be understood in that negative manner.

Becoming a good listener is to evaluate ourselves with help from trusted friends, create awareness, and replace old habits with listening for the many aspects of what a person is trying to communicate. You will be amazed by what you can learn if you truly listen.

Once you have discovered some of your listening traps, start your self-awareness campaign. When you notice yourself thinking of a response instead of listening, stop yourself mentally and open your ears and mind to what is being said. Realize that a good listener will be valued for taking a moment to consider what is being said and responding thoughtfully, and perhaps not immediately.

Now here is the reason Why: It is more often in OUR best interest to have truly heard the information and to respond more slowly and thoughtfully. Think of times when you have said yes, committing yourself to a responsibility, and moments later could have kicked yourself for agreeing. What about being in an interview situation. Have you emerged from an interview and could not think of anything that they told you? You spent your energy telling them about yourself and probably selling yourself, but did you hear them? Do you have enough information to make a careful decision about accepting a position if they ask you? There are so many job seekers that do not listen and end up in a position that solves their problem of unemployment but they are underemployed, frustrated and unhappy. The same can apply to the opposite side of the desk with interviewers. Often, we tell the potential employee everything about the position and the person that should fill it and never really get to know who the candidate is and whether they will truly be a good match for the position and the company.

When we are good listeners we can have our minds opened to new ideas, we can learn fascinating things about the people around us allowing us to attract and create valuable connections and relationships, we can make more informed and thoughtful decisions.

~~By Kate Steinbacher

Coaches Challenge:

Put together a team of trusted colleagues or bring in a coach and ask for constructive feedback to discover your listening quotient. Create self-awareness around your listening skills. Remember the reasons that you have two ears & one mouth!

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