Ideas for Becoming a Better Listener

This is from Coach’s Corner in the June edition of my monthly eMag The Leading Edge.

Recently, I was presenting a workshop for managers. As I coach people I find that most challenges, especially with managing and working with people, surround communication. And, at the heart of true communication is listening not speaking.

To fully understand other people, we need to truly listen without judgment, without jumping in with comments, without thinking what we are going to say next, and without filling in the blanks.

Here are some questions you might ask yourself to see if you are a good listener.

Do you avoid interrupting when others are speaking? Are you able to give the other person your full attention? Do you ask open-ended questions to ensure you understand their position? Can you listen without giving advice or solving their problem? Are you able to restate what they have said accurately so they know you truly have listened?

If you honestly didn’t answer these questions in terms of usually or almost always, then you may find some of these ideas helpful in becoming a better listener.

Why Am I Talking? This is a good question to ask yourself when you are in a conversation. You can’t talk and listen at the same time. WAIT is the handy acronym, I use, to remember to limit my own talking.

How would you feel in their situation? Often to be a better listener, it’s important to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Empathy goes a long way to understanding another person’s viewpoint.

Using questions that are open-ended help us to have that deeper conversation with greater understanding. An example of this type of question is something like, “What is important to you about this decision?” As you can see, these types of questions do not allow for a simple yes or no answer, they require more depth, more thoughtful responses.

How often have you found yourself in a conversation where you start thinking about what you are going to say? How you are going to respond? Listening is about truly hearing what the other person says and understanding them completely. Try to refrain from mental arguing, or forming opinions in the midst of their speaking. Once you start to form opinions or think of arguments, you are not giving them your full attention.

These are a few ways to help you truly listen and better understand people in your personal or business life.