‘Noise’ no longer refers just to sound, but to the general distractions that make our lives chaotic and stressful. We’re constantly busy, but are we effective? We’ve mastered multi-tasking, but do we really get more done in half the time? Communication is something we believe we’re experts at. Maybe in terms of personal broadcasting, we have. But the victim in all of this is our ability to truly listen.
We spend 60% of our communication time listening, according to Julian Treasure’s Ted talk. And we retain just 25% of that. Even if we think we’re listening, we’re often just hearing, waiting for the pause to fill it with what we have to say.
As a Leader/coach, why is it important to listen? By creating a space to listen, you’re showing interest, creating connection, stimulating your own creative thinking and building trust through empathy. Aren’t these qualities listed somewhere under ‘leadership skills’?
Tips for better listening
Conscious listening is also how we learn – which as everyone knows, you should never stop doing. But it’s so hard in this frenetic time to truly listen. Here are some tips to improving your listening skills:
- Make the space, physically and mentally. Clear away distractions, put your phone down and close your laptop. Make time in your diary and be selective about the meetings you attend. Running from one engagement to another leaves little time to listen to yourself, never mind anyone else. When you’re having a conversation, make sure you’re not under pressure to be somewhere else.
- Be present and make eye contact. This opens you to what’s not being said. This might be subtly apparent in body language or more obviously in what’s actually not being said.
- Try to put aside your filters. Objectivity is difficult. We filter everything that comes at us through who we are, our culture, value system, beliefs and expectations. This hampers us putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes and listening with empathy. And halts learning.
- Ask questions.
In a world of constant noise, true listening is a rare jewel. It takes practise and commitment, but it’s not impossible and you can learn how to do it. And well worth the effort, both in business spheres and personal life.