Again and again, Jay and I see our clients running into trouble because they’re distracted by their own ideas and internal rebuttals when they might profit more from paying attention to what their team members or clients are saying. Here are a few quick ideas to help tune up your listening skills so you can stay focused when you don’t think it’s important. Thanks to Jay for this article – adapted from his book in process – Simple Steps to Listening.

Here are some quick, straightforward ways to help you listen better and encourage people to share vital information with you:

If you recognize you are or were wrong, chances are you missed an opportunity to hear everything that was available to help you make the best choice. Next time try coaching yourself to really understand a variety of other peoples’ opinions before committing to an action.

If you start thinking before the other person is done talking, chances are you missed some piece of important information. Try asking a question that you don’t know the answer to.

“I’d like to understand where this data is from.”
“What specifically has led you to have this concern?”
“How would you implement your idea?”
“Do you have a suggestion how we could reduce the risk you are talking about?”

If you find yourself preparing a response before you’ve heard everything the other person wants to say, you aren’t listening anymore and you will miss something. Will it be important? I don’t know, but to be a little more confident that you know what was said remind yourself:

“Find the unusual insight in the stew of their ordinary ideas.”
“What if one of their ideas were a clue that might tell me something about the future which of their thoughts is the clue?”

If you’re irritated by the person speaking, your ability to listen may well be overwhelmed by your frustration. Try assuming that the other person is probably doing the best they can. Quickly make up one or two possible positive motivations they might have to do what they’re doing. Whether you’re right or wrong makes little difference. Even considering alternative positive motivations will make it easier to recover from frustration.

People want to be listened to, and knowing they are encourages them to share more. How does the person who’s talking, know that you’re listening to them?

Look at them, not somewhere else or right through them. Respond with specific comments:
“That’s an interesting idea.”
“I like the idea of a new website approach. Let’s focus on that for a minute.”
“Please repeat that last idea. I want to be sure I understand it.”

Repeat a detail-“If I understand you, you’re saying…”

And perhaps the most powerful evidence that you’re listening is the acknowledgement you offer.

And remember, listening and watching are both paying attention. In a sense, watching is listening with your eyes. People will feel respected if they feel “seen” or “listened to,” and acknowledgements also show that you’re paying attention.

“Thanks for explaining your idea. You got the ball rolling.”
“You created the original dashboard. That started all the innovative ideas.”
“I’ve noticed that you’re always on the lookout for potential risks.”
“You’re someone I depend on to keep us abreast of the latest possibilities in the field.”

Have you found ways to keep your attention focused when you want to be listening? Please send them to us. We’d love to share them with other readers. Go ahead. We’re listening.

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Learning to listen means taking good ideas and practicing them. Our coaching sessions on better listening encourage lots of relaxed practice where you can find your own voice. Contact us to discover the importance of listening whether you’re a collaborative leader or an authoritarian one. Boost your leadership potential and strengthen your personal relationships with coaching that matters. And if you can’t see the purpose in listening better, you should know that we think we can show you some pretty compelling reasons why your business will profit from the effort. Call or email us and we’ll discover together which of us needs to listen to the other.