In most organizations, people are so concerned with being heard that they don’t take the time to listen. The interesting thing is that the more you listen to others the more they will listen to you -the more they will be interested in hearing what you have to say. However, most people don’t listen very well. When you add on the distraction of our devices and the many ways to communicate without looking someone in the eye, whatever listening skills you may have are typically challenged and reduced.
In this key note, I am sharing three of the six keys to get people in your workplace to listen to you. You’ll find the final three keys in part two of this note.
1. Listen while others are speaking. I know this sounds simple and you may be thinking that this is common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t do this. We are often so focused on developing a response that we fail to pay attention to what is being communicated – not only their words but their body language as well. When you are thinking about what your response will be, you cannot fully hear what is being said. You will miss words, context and tone which can result in misunderstanding and confusion. You are also making assumptions about what the other person is saying or the position they are taking, which is why you are already preparing your response. But, you cannot effectively listen while you are making assumptions. Be present in the conversation, give the other person your full attention and hear every word they are saying (and not saying) before you begin to develop a response.
2. Be mindful of your body language. Whether you are in the role of listening or speaking you must remain aware of your body language and what you might be communicating. Your body language can tell a lot about whether you are really listening to the other person, how you feel about what they are saying, whether you are being sincere or disingenuous about what you are saying, and a lot more about your personality and attitude. You could be saying all the right things while your body language is communicating something totally different. You could be telling the other person that you “understand” or “agree” while your body language is communicating that you don’t care about what they are saying or that you don’t like what they are saying. The way you manage your body during a conversation will be a major contribution to the success, failure or effectiveness of your communication. Sometimes, your body language communicates more than your words do and that will be what people respond to. Always be aware of and take control over how your body is participating in your communication.
3. Refrain from interrupting people. This is something that no one likes, even people who do it consistently to others don’t like it to be done to them. The act of interrupting people when they talk is akin to telling them that what they have to say doesn’t matter, that what you have to say is more important, and that they should be quiet and listen. If you have a habit of doing this, people will begin to resent you. While they may appear to be listening to you, they will tune you out. They will begin to expect to be interrupted whenever they are in a conversation with you and as a result they will avoid having conversations with you. When people avoid talking with you, you don’t have the opportunity to be heard. If you practice key one above, it should help you refrain from interrupting people because you are waiting to hear everything they have to say before forming a response. This is an exercise in restraint – something many people lack but is necessary for good leadership
This concludes part one of Be Heard in the Workplace: 6 Keys to Getting People to Listen to You. Be sure to read part two for the final three keys.