Being a good listener is one of the most beneficial characteristics you can exhibit as a leader. Most of us believe that we are good listeners, but those who talk to us might see otherwise. Here are some tips to help you improve your listening skills.
- Eliminate distractions. It is much easier to really hear what someone is saying when you eliminate the other things around you that might distract you. A quiet room and a closed door may help you to take in what the other person is saying.
- Ask questions. Ensure that you understand what the person is really trying to tell you by engaging them with questions where you are unsure. In addition to helping you clarify items, you will demonstrate to the other person that you are fully engaged.
- Pay attention to body language. Listening to a person is more than just hearing the words they are speaking. You’ll often get very important clues from their body language. If you pay attention, you’ll even see when they don’t really feel comfortable talking to you, through gestures like keeping their arms folded across their chest. There are many books you can read about body language and what the most common gestures and positions mean. Use these clues to help develop your skills. Over time, with regular conversation, you should be able to see them become more comfortable through both what they say, and what they don’t say.
- Throughout the conversation, take the opportunity to paraphrase back to them what you believe they are trying to say. Not only will this help them know you’re listening, but it will give them an opportunity to clear up any miscommunication. It also keeps you accountable to really paying attention, if you know you have to paraphrase back to them.
- Be proactive. If you notice something going on with an employee, but they aren’t reaching out to you, approach them to let them know you’re available to talk. Don’t force them, but let them know you are there if they need you.
Becoming a better listener takes practice and a real desire to be more proficient at this skill. Practice on the people you feel most comfortable with, and soon you’ll be able to talk with anyone, knowing that you are really hearing what they are trying to tell you.