One thing that sets a good manager apart from a bad one is their ability to listen to others. Listening, like many other skills, is something that you can work on to improve. Having good listening skills consists of your ability to focus on one person and communicating that you are present. Practicing those two skills helps you to actively process what they say while interacting through non-verbal signals that you are listening.
A recent study about “The Risks Of Ignoring Employee Feedback” showed that more than 35% of leaders never or rarely respond constructively to employees work problems. When an employee or coworker feels unheard, feelings of unrest might start to build. People who are poor listeners might be described as uninterested or unsympathetic, and it doesn’t encourage good communication.
Here are five signs that you are a poor listener.
1.You are thinking about what you want to say next. Instead of focusing your attention on the conversation, you are rehearsing what you want to say in advance. A future discussion is running through your head, and therefore it is impossible to stay fully engaged in the present. Even if you think the other person doesn’t notice that you are preparing your next response, it is obvious and will come up non-verbally.
2. You try to guess their response. When someone is talking, you might try to imagine what the talker is going to say next. You are not a mind reader, so that could mean you are making assumptions about what the other person feels or thinks. You draw conclusions because you aren’t fully listening, and might falsely believe that people act in a certain way.
3. Filtering out what you don’t want to hear. The speaker might make comments that you as the listener ignore. Instead of listening to their entire point of view, you might zone in on only specific points that reinforce your argument, and disregard anything that doesn’t fit into your mindset or something that you don’t want to hear. By filtering out specific points, you might misunderstand what the speaker is trying to say, leading to hurt feelings or disagreements.
4. Not paying attention. Sometimes, people might have trouble listening and concentrating on the meaning of what is actually being said. You might be spending more time thinking about what you want to say, or are just not interested in what they are saying. Or, you might be spending too much time looking at your phone, instead of actively listening. Regardless of what the reason is for you not fully paying attention, it is obvious to the speaker, and it might ruin your relationship.
5. Discount emotions. If you aren’t in touch with other people’s emotions, you might be missing out on essential cues and not understand what is really going on with others. You should never downplay someone else’s emotions, and tell them not to feel the way that they do. Try not to act uncomfortable if someone expresses feelings. Give them a safe place to show their emotions.
How to Improve Your Listening Skills
- Ask questions. This is one of the simplest ways to become a better listening. You should be listening to learn more about your speaker, not just to be polite. Asking questions helps to reduce the amount of time you can talk, and it creates a space for the other person to express their opinions. Questions can also help with the flow of the conversation and help you explore more topics.
- Learn how to actively listen. During the discussion, try to repeat back what you hear. Therefore, if the speaker agrees that is what they wanted to say, you can move on. If not, then the speaker can reword what they want to say to help you understand. That way, you won’t agree with statements without fully understanding first. Actively listening helps to eliminate the chance of misunderstanding.
- Don’t interrupt. This might be the hardest part of becoming a better listener. Waiting to respond until someone has finished talking helps you to gain the speaker’s complete trust and respect. If you begin to think about or say your reply before the speaker is done talking, you might miss out on relevant information offered. Interrupting conveys the opinion that you are better than the speaker. Using a bit more self-focus and restraint will help to improve your listening skills.
- Pay attention to your listening/talking ratio. You should try to listen twice as much as you talk. If you need a bit of visual representation during your next meeting, keep track of everyone who is attending. When someone talks more than a sentence or two, put a checkmark by his or her name, including yourself. This can help you actually see how much you are talking and how much time you spend listening.
- Non-verbal cues. Doing small things such as keeping eye-contact can help the conversation flowing. By not maintaining eye-contact, it can seem like you are not paying attention to the discussion, even if you are. To improve this, take it small and try to focus your gaze on just one person’s eyes at a time if you are in a big group setting.
- Keep your smartphone in your pocket. Even glancing at your phone during a conversation can be detrimental to the speaker’s self-esteem. It automatically conveys that you are not paying attention. Unless you are using the phone to take notes or checking something that is extremely time-sensitive, keep the smartphone put away.
- Be honest if you can’t listen right then. When you are in a rush, tired, or very stressed, don’t be afraid to convey that and let the other person know. Sometimes, your mind has reached a limit, and you can’t listen anymore. It is okay to tell the other person that you need a break and to continue the conversation when you can give it your undivided attention.
Even if you aren’t the best listener right now, the good news is that with a little effort on your part, you can become a better active listener.