We all have two ears and one mouth and you would think that we would listen in that proportion to talking but we don’t. Not everyone is well-versed in the art of listening and how to master it. Actually, we are so busy today that we are caught up in the activity, we lose sight of the people. Busy makes us focus on what we did or where we are headed. Busy keeps us from being present.

active listeningNo matter if you are a parent, friend, sibling, manager, executive or employee, listening is crucial. In sales, it will determine your level of income. As an employee, it will determine your ability to do your job efficiently and effectively. As a manager or executive, it will determine employee engagement. As a parent, it will create the relationship you have with your family. Listening skills might very well be the most important skills you can develop to create even greater success.

Do they teach listening skills at school or at management training, sales training or executive training programs? Nope.

So let’s take a closer look at listening here. Feel free to bring this back to your corporate training programs, executive training, management training, sales training or any other training your company offers to incorporate listening into the program.

To start, there are two types of listening: active and passive.

Passive Listening:

What is passive listening? Passive listening is listening without reacting or responding, just allowing someone to speak, without interrupting. Not doing anything else at the same time.

This is a big challenge for many people today because we are so used to be constantly stimulated that you might experience an impulse to look at the thing moving in your peripheral or check your phone, remember something that happened earlier in the day and shift your attention.

Listening requires your full attention in the present moment.

Active Listening

What is active listening? Active listening takes passive listening to the next level. Active listening requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said. You show your concentration with your body language and eye contact. Your understanding comes through clarification questions or repeating back what you heard with their words. When you refer to something they said another time or later in the conversation this is a further testament to your active listening.

Here are top 5 reasons that prevent you from active listening?

1.You are waiting to talk:

Sometimes when one person is talking, the other is formulating their statement. This means you are not listening. This can be considered competitive listening.

Sometimes in a conflict, I am emotional and trying to formulate my thoughts or when I am nervous to speak up at an event, I might be in my head thinking of what I will say, instead of listening. People can feel your presence or lack thereof when you are waiting to talk. They don’t feel heard. There is lost connection and then they tend to repeat themselves. I have learned that listening is an important part of me getting my message across so if I don’t listen, it takes longer.

2. You are distracted:

You allow your mind to drift to a previous moment, a moment in the future, or get distracted by your environment. As a result, you are no longer fully present.

I know I have a problem when I meet people at sports bars because my eyes and attention get diverted to the TV screens. If we aren’t there to watch the game, I either ask that we sit away from the TV acknowledging my distraction or pick a place that is quiet and we can have a focused conversation. Control your environment as well as your mind to stay connected.

3. You are judging:

You aren’t really listening if you are judging. This will distract you away from what they are saying or you may dismiss or misconstrue what they are saying because you may have unconsciously stopped listening to understand. Get in a curios state. I always ask “what do you mean by that” to avoid me interpreting what that might mean to them. When I can stay curious and seek to understand, the conversation hold a different energy, it is more open, more connected and more relaxed. That is a better energy for handling a conflict, don’t you think?

4. Inserting your opinion or advice:

Don’t interrupt a person before they are finished to impose whatever solution you feel is the best approach. Refrain from suggestions unless asked. People can

In the book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss FBI top negotiator, taught me that you know the other person feels heard when they say the magic words “that’s right”. Not “you’re right” but “that’s right”. So any variation of that “you got it”, that’s it” “Yes!” means that they have been received and felt heard. When they feel heard, then they will be open to listen. Without it, Chris Voss says – there is no negotiation.

Improve Listening skills

Want to find out what gaps you have in your listening skills? Yes, you probably have a few – if you are human. Ask a few people around you (in different areas of your life) how they would rate your listening skills. Yes, really! Tell them this is part of a self-development project and ask them to rate you on a scale from 1-10 (1 being the best). Then ask them how you could improve? What works best for them to feel heard? Do they like questions to be asked, repeat back what you heard, etc. Just going through this exercise with them will improve your relationship, because you care enough to ask.

This exercise was great for me. I opened up some powerful conversations with a few family members and at the office. I am now more aware of what contexts I have challenges in, and how to demonstrate my level of listening.

Here is a great podcast to listen to further explore the art of listening with Chris Lee and Lewis Howes.

The Art of Listening: How to Master Relationships Through Communication

 

When you start exercising active listening, you are going to notice vast improvements in both your professional and personal lives. You are going to be a better friend, spouse, parent, and employee thanks to these very important skills. Always keep working towards being a better active listener.