I'm learning every day. I'm learning to listen.
Are you learning too? If not, you should be. :)
Are You Listening To Me?
I remember the moment distinctly.
I had been talking with my friend Stephanie on the phone. We'd been on for several minutes. Suddenly out of nowhere, she says 'Are you listening to me?'
I was caught - guilty. I'd been distracted by a book or magazine for a moment. Though she couldn't see me, she knew I was distracted and not listening well.
Fast forward 18 years and Stephanie is now my wife.
And - I'm still learning to listen every day.
Are You Really Listening?
People know if you are listening - whether it's face to face, on the phone,
or on any number of video conference options. You give strong clues, even if you think you don't.
Here are a few of those clues:
An extra couple of seconds of silence after the conversation had been trucking along.
You starting to repeat phrases over and over like 'Uh huh' or 'I see'
Saying - 'I'm sorry - can you repeat that? I didn't quite hear you?' You think you are getting away with it, but you're not.
People know if you are fully engaged or not when you are listening to them.
Give your full attention
Stay focused on the person in the conversation only. The conversation will be more meaningful on both sides if you do.
They can hear your keyboard clicks. They can hear you cover the phone and talk briefly to someone else. You are communicating that these other things are more important than they are.
Ask Good Questions
No, I don't mean 'Can you repeat that? I didn't hear your' type of questions. I mean questions that show you are listening.
What can I do to help you with that issue? Am I understanding you correctly - you think
that we'll be 20% over budget for your territory this year? Yes, I understand that the customer is upset with us. What do you think are the core reasons for that?
Use Positive Body Language
Give eye contact. Shake your head yes. Shake your head 'no' when appropriate. Don't cross your arms and look bored.
These are simple things, yet we forget to do these key things that tell people that we truly are listening to them.
It may sound silly, but you need to practice these things on a regular basis or they will fade. A friend of mine calls it 'sharpening the saw'. One way I practice is to do it in front of the video camera. Here's an example of me practicing some key listening skills in a video with my friend Randy.
Stay After It
It's not easy, but you can be a good listener. With just a little bit of effort, you'll set yourself apart from other managers if you practice good listening skills.