Are You Really Listening?

Eleni recently shared this Harvard Business Review article, What Great Listeners Actually Do, with the rest of the Left Field team.

I found it to be a good reminder of an (outwardly basic) skill that is pivotal to success and I thought I would share some takeaway points with you.

HBR researchers conducted an analysis of listening behaviours of over 3000 participants and were able to identify characteristics (which go beyond simply not talking while someone else is talking) to differentiate ‘great’ and ‘average’ listeners.

I love this paragraph below:

“While many of us have thought of being a good listener being like a sponge that accurately absorbs what the other person is saying, instead, what these findings show is that good listeners are like trampolines. They are someone you can bounce ideas off of — and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, energize, and clarify your thinking.”

Some tops tips with listening I have gained from this read:

  • Ask questions periodically “that promote discovery and insight; and that gently challenge old assumptions”. Asking good questions sends a message to the speaker that they are being heard and that the speaker wants to understand in more depth the substance of what the speaker is saying.
  • Feedback should flow in both directions without being competitive – being an excellent debater isn’t the same as an excellent listener. 
  • The best listener’s make the conversation a positive and confidence-enhancing experience for the speaker. The speaker needs to feel they are in a safe environment, free of judgement.
  • Display empathy!! We hear this again and again, but it is still a tough skill to incorporate into every interaction, especially when we are focused on our own agenda.
  • Be able to share helpful ideas on the topic; however keep in mind, a good listener should be aware to never hijack the conversation and make it about themselves or their own issues.

Why listen well?

As a psychology student, I know why I need to learn these skills, but how important is it beyond the psychology world? Consider the scenario (that we have all experienced) when you share a story or some information with a person, and as you are talking you notice the listener drift off with their own thoughts, they may not respond appropriately, they may draw a blank expression, or they may respond with a change in topic indicating to you them have not been listening. How does it feel?

Outcomes of poor listening may include: broken relationships, missed business and/or personal opportunities, untapped ideas, hurt feelings and loss of trust/respect.

Practical things to improve listening skills:

  • Remove distractions (phone, laptop, tv, etc.).
  • Really look at the speaker; face your body towards them so they feel confident that they have your attention (also, consider what is their body language saying?).
  • Practising listening! (try to listen well in all conversations – not just the ones where you feel you might gain something).
  • When you feel your mind wandering gently guide it back to the conversation.

“…we hope all will see that the highest and best form of listening comes in playing the same role for the other person that a trampoline plays for a child. It gives energy, acceleration, height and amplification. These are the hallmarks of great listening.”

Kate Higgins (Administration Assistant)

Want more tips on listening techniques? Want to find out your Listening Style and how this might affect the outcome of interactions? Left Field offers workshops to help cultivate and enhance skills such as listening to propel you and your business to reach your ultimate potential! Contact us on 07 3716 0165 to discuss how we can help you.