Have you ever been in a meeting where there is a lot of conversation, but nothing is getting accomplished? It’s because everyone is talking – instead of listening!
People generally want to be accepted into the group. They want to be acknowledged for their contributions. They want to be acknowledged for their intellect. They want to be known for their abilities.
Unfortunately, many people believe they must “talk about” their knowledge and abilities rather than just demonstrate them. It is this type of actions that a successful leader will guide his or her subordinates from “talking to doing.”
When we are actively listening, we make the person we are engaging with feel valued. This will lead to them being more receptive to our intentions in guiding them to our beliefs. In business, actively listening to what your client is telling you will guide you into larger sales, more successful negotiations and more compromise from them towards your positions.
Active listening is more than just using your ears. You must read the body language of the person as well. Facial expressions and how they are positioning their body while talking to you will tell you far more information than the person even realizes.
To be an effective leader you must first be an effective listener. Here are a few helpful ideas that will guide you to that successful end:
1. Make eye contact with the person talking. Face square on with the person. Do not face away from them and just turn your head. That is signaling that you are not really interested in what that person is saying. Sit, stand of face directly towards the person talking.
2. Show that you are listening by nodding; smiling when appropriate or acting “shocked” or “surprised’ at the appropriate time. This will demonstrate to the person talking that you “get” what they are saying.
3. Try to mirror the person’s body language. If they are standing – you stand. If they are sitting – you sit directly in front of them (or as close as comfortably and socially possible). If they are sitting by leaning in – you lean in (don’t be overtly obnoxious about it. When you mirror their image, do so in non-subtle ways).
4. Summarize what they are trying to say into your own words. Clarify in your mind what they are telling you.
5. Ask questions to clarify the points they are trying to make. This confers your interest in making sure you understand their positions.
6. Ask open-ended questions and not “yes or no” questions. This not only brings clarity to the conversation, it causes the person to rethink their position as well. This is very helpful in negotiations. It could show them (in their own mind) that their initial position was not as strong as they initially thought.
7. Do not sound “judgmental” in your responses. Do not immediately form a rebuttal in your mind and then knock their positions down like bowling pins! You will gain a lot more advantage by guiding them to see the validity of your position and making it sound like it was their idea!
8. Take a real interest in their point of view and in what they are trying to communicate. Whether at an office party or in the corporate boardroom, you need to make the person talking believe they are only talking to you (regardless of the number of people present). If you are simply feigning interest, it will be very apparent (to all present) and will lose you valuable leadership integrity points with your subordinates (or whoever you are talking with). Integrity points that may never be won back again!
9. Never fall into the trap of telling “war stories” about how you faced a similar challenge but it was “much worse.” Telling them how you tackled adversity and overcame defeat in your life does nothing for the other person. Stories are OK during training or from a platform to add validity – but when someone is communicating a problem they are facing – stories will lose you integrity points fast!
10. Acknowledge the difficulties which the person may be conveying to you. Acknowledge – but do not accept them as your own! Use empathy for their situation – but do not offer to take the burden of what they are facing. Offer alternatives, if readily available. Never accept a losing position as your own position. ALWAYS make sure your position is a winning position.
Take a real interest in what the other person is trying to convey to you. Whether your subordinate or boss; whether your colleague or business client – using these “Ten Tips” will make a better listener and a better leader!