We all like to think we are good listeners and give the other person we are communicating with the respect they deserve, by our attention. In truth, we don’t. ( except the ‘S’ style -they are great listeners ) Here is the problem.
Our brain thinks at 400 words per minute
Our mouth only works at 300 words per minute
What happens is a race between our brain and our mouth. As soon as the other person starts speaking, we hear the first few words, make an assessment on what they are going to say, and start thinking about our response. In the process we stop listening.
Listening is a skill and it takes deliberate practice. Learning to stop the thinking part of the brain, or at least slow it down takes concerted effort. Remember all the information the subconscious takes in- it knows when you are not listening and lets your partner in communication know.
How many times have you heard someone say: “they just don’t listen” Why is it important to be a good listener:
- You don’t miss important details
- Makes your own message clear
- It reduces misunderstandings
- Saves time from having to re-do things
- Eliminates mistakes
- Builds rapport
- Builds trust
- Portrays honesty
- Lets the listener know you actually care
“D’s” & “I’s” have the biggest trouble listening. They are both outgoing and are tell / talk people. Where as the “S” & “C” are reserved and ask / listen people.
Some tips to be better listeners.
- Stop, take a slow big breath ( that the other person can’t see you doing or it will send the wrong message ) This will slow your heart rate down, which in turn will slow your brain down.
- Don’t interrupt. I know you have something really important to say and you might forget if you don’t get it out out, but it’s rude. Don’t do it. Make a mark on a piece of paper, or make a fist and put one finger up for each point you need to make. This will help you remember you had something to say. I often touch a finger on the table to remind me. If the other person sees it it doesn’t matter. They are smart enough to know what it means, and they would rather that, than you interrupting them.
- Remember when the pause is for in the DISC styles. An S pauses in the middle of a sentence. So if you interrupt when they pause, what are you doing to rapport? Their “want” is relationship, what happens to that when you interrupt. To an S this is is absolutely infuriating and a constant daily frustration. But the rest of us will never know as their emotion is non-emotion. They won’t give it away that we are driving them nuts, and at the same time harming the relationship.
- Listen with your body. This is called “active listening” so be actively involved.
Learn to pause before you speak. A 2-3 second pause before you speak:
- Lets them know you are considering what then have said
- Helps prevent you from interrupting
- Gives you the time to actually understand what they might be saying
- Prevents you from going of on a tangent
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and because they haven’t listened properly they get the wrong idea of your message and go on this tangent that has absolutely nothing to do with the conversation? Annoying isn’t it!
Your aim in any conversation is to make them feel like they are the only people in the world that matter to you. Are you the person that gets distracted easily? Someone walks into the room and you shift your focus to them rather than the person you’re talking to. Someone makes a noise, or even worse gestures that they want your attention. What do you do, more importantly what message does it send to the other person? That you don’t care! Or everything else is more important than them.
Active listening is a 2, or 3 way engagement. You need to be involved.
- Question the person to let them know you are involved. e.g. what do you mean exactly. OR When you say ……. do you mean ……..
- Paraphrase what the other person has just said.e.g. Let me make sure I’m getting this. Is what you mean….. They will either clarify that you understand, or the will correct you. Either way you know you have the right message.
- Ask open ended questions, then listen. Open questions are things that invite further information: they are : What, How, When, Who, Where & Why. A closed question will simply get you a Yes or No.
- Use listening language. I understand what you mean. OR Yes I agree. OR Thats interesting, OR I didn’t know that. There are plenty of others, just be involved.
- Take notes. This shows you respect them and their information enough to write it down. It also shows you want to get it right. However, always ask their permission first. You won’t get an objection to it, it just shows respect. Here is something you can say:
“this is far too important for me to miss details, do you mind if I write this down?”
Make eye contact – looking anywhere else is saying
- I’m not really comfortable with you
- I don’t trust you
- I don’t like you
- What you have to say is not important
- You are being dismissive
- You would rather be somewhere else
If you do have to be somewhere else then let them know and reschedule the chat.
- Make listening noises like: aha, umm, oh yeah etc. Watch an episode of Faulty Towers with John Cleese and see what Cibyl Faulty does – she’s an expert at listening noises.
- Smile, always smile. Get those dolphins jumping round their head. Listen with your body. Don’t let any negative or disagreeable thoughts transfer to your body language. Give good listening body language. e.g. lean in a little, nod your head, small hand gestures of agreement, did I say smile?
What is the message the other person gets when you stop listening? If you happen to be in a sales or customer service role: Only 13% of customers say that a sales or customer service person understands them. Now that’s not good. We all know it and we have all experienced it -so lets not be the ones who do it.
What are the things you miss when your focus is not where it should be?