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Listen better to improve relationships

As an executive and business coach, I work with a broad range of clients, be they part of a large organisation or agile, ambitious start up, and everything in between. I constantly reflect on what value I might add. I realise now that one of the most valued services I offer is that of genuine listening and hearing what clients say. It seems simple and perhaps even obvious, but the more people I come across, the more I realise how few people there are that do genuinely listen and hear what you say. This lack of attentiveness creates a host of misunderstandings, lack of engagement and breakdown in relationships even, that could, I believe be avoided if we all learned to better listen and hear what is being said.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.  Stephen R Covey

When you genuinely listen to what someone has to say as opposed to waiting for a gap in conversation to get your point or response across, you will find that not only do you gain an insight into how they think, what drives them and what they want, but you will find that you can achieve a deeper level of communication and trust.

It is wiser to find out than to suppose.   Mark Twain

We make so many assumptions that can be damaging to business and relationships. So often, if we changed the way we communicate and listened to people in order to genuinely learn from them, we would make fewer assumptions and actually find out what is really going on. Imagine how much time this would save and how misunderstandings and conflict could be minimised.

Genuine listening builds better relationships

By not listening properly, we miss out on a great deal. We miss out on information to start with. We miss out on all sorts such as how people are feeling, what their mood is like, what their attitude is towards us, the business, others. These factors all enhance our knowledge of others and how we can better work and interact with them. By really listening, we can promote engagement and others feel that their words are worth something.

Make people feel valued

If we allow our own thoughts to elevate as others speak, we shouldn’t fool ourselves that they won’t pick up on this. Humans are very sensitive to how others behave and we all know what it’s like to speak to someone who is physically present but not hearing anything. Think of a time when this has happened to you. How did that make you feel? Perhaps you felt the other person showed a lack of respect, you may not have felt valued. It is highly likely that you went away thinking “well that was a waste of time, I’ll avoid approaching them again”. This sort of behaviour builds negativity and resentment which could potentially have been avoided.

What is your default when it comes to listening?

All behaviour change starts with actually realising where you are now. Then you can work out where you want to get to and how. What do you tend to do when in conversation?

Are you a broadcaster?You have an agenda, something to say and you want to get it out there and get on with it. How does the other person feel? Try considering things from their perspective and the benefits of a two way conversation.

Are you a mind racer?

Your focus is internal rather on the person speaking. How do they feel? What are you missing out on by not being present? How can you tame your thoughts and bring your attention to the speaker?

Are you a jumper to conclusions?

Do you listen to the first few sentences and then make up your mind regardless of what comes next? What sort of pattern will this create for you and your business? How can you let go of your assumptions?

Are you easily distracted?Whatever else is going on in the room or outside the window, that’s where your focus is. You might have your phone or laptop at hand and be glancing over at them. You leave conversations thinking you’ve heard it all, but will have missed so much. Ask yourself what you can do about this? Putting the device away would be a good start!

What can you do now?

Most of us can relate to some if not all of the above. Ask yourself what small change can you make to improve your listening. There will be something, no matter how small. None of us are perfect listeners all of the time. There are so many benefits to getting good at listening, why not start today and notice the positive changes that take place.

Did you know I run workshops on better listening? Get in touch to find out more.

Are you listening?

Of course we’re listening!

But not always to what others are saying to us.  We’re very often listening to our own thoughts and just tuning in when a response is needed.

We’ve all experienced conversations, where we are talking and the other person nods or responds with an “uh huh” or “yup” occasionally (but not always in the right place) and their eyes are just not with us.  It’s pretty deflating to be talking to someone who’s so wrapped up in their thoughts or whatever they are doing. Especially if it’s a meeting where you’re agreeing to do something or make changes and you leave half heartedly, knowing that what they agreed upon is unlikely to happen. Or worse, if you get on and do what you agreed, they will question it at a later date, claiming to know nothing about it.

I’m not talking about having a conversation with someone who is clearly not listening as they are checking their emails or texts or browsing a news site.  Those situations are easy to spot and you know for a fact they’re not tuned in to what you’re saying. The ones that aren’t so clear as so much more of a frustration and challenge. When “the lights are one but there’s no one home”, or when you realise someone is physically present, but not taking in what’s being said, there is little point in continuing. So there goes a wasted conversation or meeting.  And it doesn’t make you feel great, either. It shows little regard for you and demonstrates the fact that you and your opinions are not valued.

Or does it?

Have you ever been stressed? Too much to do, not enough time.  Staff or colleagues asking constant questions. emails streaming in, meetings scheduled.  No time to actually follow up with actions. Perhaps something is going wrong and you’ve got lots on your mind.

Sound familiar?

When all this is going on, are you good at listening to others? I mean really listening.  Or does your mind wander off to attend to all the stressful and worrying stuff, meaning that you’re unable to hear anything that’s being said.  You’re just willing them to go away so you can get on with all the other things on your long list. It’s not actually that you don’t respect them or don’t value their opinions, it’s just that you can’t focus on what they’re saying because you have other things on your mind.

You will probably agree that such a meeting is not going to be productive.

If you’re in this situation, the first thing to do is ask yourself if you’re going to be able to find a way of focusing on what’s being said.  If this is impossible at that moment in time, don’t carry on with the meeting.  This is not always possible, so ask yourself what is important at that moment in time. Realise the impact you have on someone if you’re not listening to them. If you’re very busy, agree to a set length of meeting, agree to a clear purpose or aim and make a commitment to being completely present for them for this set time.  They deserve that much, surely? (You might find this article on sticking to the AIM useful).

By being clear about how long you’ve got and what exactly you will discuss, and by listening carefully, less time will be wasted and all parties will feel more valued and clearer about what they need to do.

See if you can be more aware about how well you listen to others notice the impact on your time and relationships when you are better tuned in.

If you’d like to know more about how working with a coach can increase self awareness or if you’re interested in training your staff to listen better, get in touch.