Last week I posted a blog post on research that revealed that the more confident a leader is, the more likely they are to be a good listener.
I had a question this week from someone which stopped me in my tracks, “Craig, how do I know if I am a good or a bad listener. I might think I’m great but am actually not.”
So I have spent some time thinking about this question. (By the way feel free to ask any questions you have from the blog by leaving a comment)
The title of this post comes from various reports about why Bill Clinton is seen as charismatic and a great communicator by many people. Many people report that when Bill Clinton is talking with you he makes you feel special, like you are the only person in the room. His undivided attention and true listening sets him a part from many others. If there was anyone who could be excused for having many things on his mind, it would be the President of the United States. I know there any many times when small and large issues have distracted me when someone is talking.
Sometimes it is I am readying myself to answer their question, their argument or simply to tell them of my experience. Other times there are pressing matters that I want to get too and am eager to attend to them. Then there are other times when honestly I lose interest.
Most people think they’re good at listening. No one sets out to be a bad listener. However, it’s a sad fact that good listeners are rare in our society and when you come across one, it’s like a breath of fresh air and really makes a that person a joy to communicate with.
According to research cited by Wright State University while most people believe they are good listeners who don’t need to improve their listening skills, the average person listens at only about 25 percent efficiency. The article goes on to state, “Research has found that by listening effectively, you will get more information from the people you manage, you will increase others’ trust in you, you will reduce conflict, you will better understand how to motivate others, and you will inspire a higher level of commitment in the people you manage.”
How can you tell if you’re a good listener?
Let’s look at how you can tell if you are a good listener or not… There are 3
- WATCH YOURSELF
Am I consistently present and attentive?
Present and not trying to multitask
Notice if you are not on your phone, thinking about tonight’s dinner or trying to multi-task. If you notice that you are able to be consistently present – tick!
Positive Body Language
As well as being present, you show good attentiveness by maintaining good eye contact and watch for visual cues from your conversation partner. Your body language is open and facing the person. Good eye contact, an open body stance, facing towards your conversation partner and nodding and smiling intermittently all show that you’re all ears and listening attentively. We’ve all heard that the vast majority of communication comes from body language, rather than what’s actually being said and good listeners are supremely aware of this and act accordingly.
2.LISTEN TO YOURSELF
Are you also making occasional small verbal gestures of agreement such as ‘uh huh’, ‘yes’, ‘mmmm’. This doesn’t mean you necessarily in agreement with what the person is saying, but indicating your are listening actively.
The best listeners ask questions and draw out more from the points the other person speaks about. It doesn’t have to be super-clever topic related questions; a simple ‘tell me more’ or ‘what is important about that’ for example are fantastic signals of being interested and a good listener.
You feedback key points
Being able to accurately relay back to a person in your own words what they’ve said and their key points makes a person feel very heard and understood.
3.NOTICE YOUR REACTIONS
Listening is a discipline. Sometimes the person speaking to you will ramble, not be 100% clear or will quite simply bore you. A good listener moves past all this and draws the person out. The funny thing is, when we know we are being attentively, carefully listened to, we relax, feel ‘safe’ and are able to open up in a more eloquent and interesting way. This is one of the reasons why a good listener, by saying nothing, can really bring about great conversation and make the other person more interesting and also more interested in you; a win-win.
You’re open minded and not judgemental
If you approach listening to someone with your own preconceptions and self-righteousness in your head, you are not a good listener. Great listeners are able to at least entertain another point of view (i.e. without prejudgment) and hold loosely in their minds their own perspective on the conversation topic.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share in the feelings of another. Empathy is about being able to appreciate why someone is feeling or reacting a certain way. Are you good at this?
Above all, you are authentic and genuine in your desire to hear what the other person has to say. It is easy to go through the motions of many of the above points but if you do this, the other person will intuitively pick up on this and the conversation will not be as rich or satisfying for either person.
You may need to practice some of the skills and attributes outlined above and that’s fine. When you get to that sweet spot of being a great listener by displaying all 9 facets of a good listener above, not only will people find you a joy to speak to but also your influence and persuasion will go up massively.
Do you want to take it to the next level go to www.transformgroup.com.au/ and download a short survey to help identify where you could improve your listening.