By Raine St.Claire
In the world of top career executives, there is a common belief that key ingredients for building a successful career are linked to relentless work schedules, constant productivity and unwavering organisational skills. While this notion may hold some truth, an alternative skill is seen as a potent factor in setting successful individuals apart in the workplace — the art of being a good listener.
According to Exos, a renowned performance coaching company known for mentoring NFL players and Fortune 100 executives, what distinguishes high achievers from others is their exceptional communication skills, with active listening being a crucial and often underrated component of their success. The art of being wholly present and thoughtfully responsive to the words of others is an intricate dance of communication that often eludes many. People frequently fall into a trap where they merely hear but fail to truly comprehend the other person’s perspective.
Regrettably, many enter discussions with preconceived notions, personal agendas, or distractions that hinder genuine understanding. Fidgeting restlessly, interrupting, or succumbing to the allure of mobile devices, they unintentionally undermine the quality of their interactions. Consequently, these listening habits become a catalyst for conversations, negotiations, and conflicts veering off course. Here are three strategies for becoming a better listener at work:
1. Identify your strong points and areas of development
Begin this transformative process by evaluating your current listening abilities. Seek feedback from three trusted co-workers, mentors, or friends about your conversational conduct. Understand how you make them feel at your best — when you are attentive, aligned, and relaxed — and at your worst — when distractions, agitation, or stress cloud your listening. Great listeners leave a positive impact on people after conversing with them, and these responses can serve as valuable indicators of your progress towards this goal.
2. Hone your listening techniques
Practise reflective listening in your next conversation with a colleague or client by summarising what you hear and inquire whether your synopsis accurately captures their thoughts. If not, seek clarification or elaboration, as reflective listening allows you to receive the message without imposing personal biases and demonstrates empathy and genuine interest in understanding their perspective.
3. Cultivate curiosity
To counter moments of distraction or confusion during a conversation, nurture the power of open-ended questions. These thought-provoking queries invite deeper insights and encourage the speaker to elaborate on their thoughts, fostering an environment of exploration and discovery..By doing so, you foster an environment of exploration and discovery, leading to more fruitful and meaningful discussions. Pose thought-provoking open ended questions like:
- How may I help?
- Would you be able to give me an example?
- What are your thoughts on this situation?
- Refrain from making judgments or countering the speaker’s opinions. Instead, prioritise understanding the message they convey.
- Incorporate both verbal and non-verbal cues when reflecting the speaker’s message back at them. Try to reproduce elements like body language and tone of voice, as they play a vital role in conveying the full meaning.
- Focus on comprehending the speaker’s feelings rather than merely repeating the facts and ideas they express. Reflective listening involves an earnest attempt to grasp the emotions behind the matters they communicate about.
- Avoid offering advice during reflective listening. Instead, employ acknowledgment and encouragement to empower the speaker to find solutions on their own.
By doing so, you establish a rapport built on trust, signalling your receptiveness to feedback and your eagerness to learn from others. The ability to genuinely hear and comprehend others unlocks a world of untapped potential, enabling you to achieve so much more when your colleagues and collaborators feel truly seen, heard, and supported.