In a world where we communicate instantly and often in soundbites, is the art of listening lost? It has been a great privilege of mine to have spent many hours listening to the dreams, hopes and fears of some of the most outstanding leaders in business. In my mind, the art of actively engaging in a conversation, looking another person squarely in the eye and reaching a common understanding is one that we are losing as a society.
Listening actively is a learned skill. It doesn’t mean silence on behalf of the listener, in fact quite the opposite. It’s my view that if we each committed to truly listening to each other, there would be less miscommunication and a lot more accomplished.
My top five active listening rules are:
- Eliminate distractions. Yes, that means no phones, emails or any other distractions for the duration of the listening.
- Stay “in the moment”. Make a real effort to hear what the other person is saying rather than how you might respond to them.
- Ask questions to clarify. The listener’s role is to ensure that they have understood what they have heard in the way that the speaker has intended.
- Summarize your understanding. If you think you know what the person has said, summarize it in your own words for them.
- Let the speaker confirm whether you have it right.
Whether it’s dealing with business colleagues, friends, significant others or children, a little listening goes a long way in this hectic world.