Listening – Soft Skill Gone Pro – What You Need to Know
Listening seems so obvious, why call it a skill? Why does it make such a difference? And, how can it change an entire corporate culture?
In my research on the internal atmosphere of businesses, listening was one attribute that was a consistent part of why their culture flourished. The definition of a skill is the ability to do something well. If you have ever played a sport, or a musical instrument, or learned a new process, then you know that skill develops through practice. The more you practice, the better you perform the task. This is also true with listening, which is an integral piece of good communication. Don’t ever call this a soft skill as I am pretty sure you cannot have a business without communicating, especially verbally.
Listening is an expertise you have probably never been taught, or rarely taught. You probably took a course sometime in writing communication. And, you might have had a course in speaking or practiced on a debate team. But, how many of you have been instructed on how to listen better?
When you are in an active conversation, how do you listen? Are you aware of your surroundings? Whether you are in a noisy crowded area or sitting across from someone in a quiet office makes a huge difference in what is heard AND how it is interpreted. Imagine how much time could be saved if people heard what you meant the first time.
It’s equally important to be aware of what is going on in your own life, especially when a person has taken their own time to speak with you. Are you working on a deadline? Are you expecting a call in 5 minutes? How present can you be if your mind is somewhere else? Make sure that barring an emergency, you CAN be present and truly listen. When your mind is racing with ideas, it is impossible to concentrate on words coming at you in the moment. Obviously, you are not going to say, “I’ll call 911 in a minute.” But you might say, “If this is not an emergency, I am working on a project right now, could we meet at 4 today so I can be totally present for you?”
We all know that a strong culture needs leaders who epitomize the characteristics of the environment they have planned. In my book, Catalysts of Culture, the leaders highlighted know the importance of listening and how it plays into their vision. First of all, they were keenly aware of how important listening was. When they had a conversation, they made themselves available. Not just in time, but in mind. They did not live in a high castle with four gatekeepers, instead, they were strategically a part of the very people who carried out the purpose of the company. They were conscientious about where and when they had conversations, depending on the need of the individual and the situation. They learned how to talk less and concentrate more on the person that was speaking. This is a critical element of being a good listener. They made it their mission to be present. In return, their workforce shared ideas, frustrations and solutions to catapult their organization into the future.
It all starts with being aware. You can never have too much self-awareness. This week, work on your own. Notice what you do, or don’t do, the next time someone wants to talk with you. You can only change your behavior if you know your behavior. The rewards are plentiful.
We have been given two ears and one mouth. I think there’s a reason for that.
Image by Takura Obara from Pixaby
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