Individuals often underestimate the impact of active listening. Not just hearing someone else express his/her thoughts and feelings, but truly listening – taking time to comprehend and understand what the other person is saying. This is an ESSENTIAL TRAIT for leaders to learn. Yes, it needs to be learned. Most people are not natural-born listeners. Here are some ways to start developing the habit of listening:
Be present. Put down your phone, shut your computer, and silence your thoughts. Give 100% of your attention to the individual talking to you. When people speak, we are often distraction by our own thoughts or things around us. Take time to develop the habit of being present. Focus on who is in front of you.
Make eye contact (if talking in person). This will make the other person understand you are fully engaged in the conversation. Wandering eyes make you seem distracted and not interested in what the other person has to say.
Provide feedback. This can take many forms. You can restate their thought to demonstrate you are processing what was said. Respond with advice or encouraging word to assure the other person you are concerned. Reflect with additional questions to follow up or clarify what was said.
Empathize. Try to understand the other person’s point of view that is speaking to you. Put yourself in their shoes and understand the situation from their perspective. Have an open mind to what is being said and strive to be impartial.
Delay criticism and judgment. Wait until the person is completely done with his/her train of thought. If you disagree, then offer constructive feedback on how you see the situation differently. Avoid cutting the other person off or raising your voice. Remember to discuss the issue, not attack the person.