As effective leaders –-anyone who positively influences someone else-- it is essential that we carefully listen to those around us in order to deeply understand our environment, truly know the people we’re interacting with, and meaningfully connect with co-workers, family members, and others who are counting on us. Try these five methods to improve your listening skills:
1. Be aware of the filters you bring to conversations. Are you always trying to solve a problem? Do you frequently look for the positive (or the negative) to the exclusion of almost everything else? Are you often jumping ahead in your mind to plan what you’ll say next instead of really hearing what someone is saying? Be aware of your natural tendencies and adjust so that you are hearing more openly.
2. Make an effort to focus intently. Realize that being able to exchange ideas with someone or to hear another person's perspective is an opportunity. Be in the moment and focused on what you are hearing to make the most of each interaction.
3. Make sustained eye contact. The most effective communicators make people they’re talking to feel more important than anyone else in the room. Eye contact and body positioning has a lot to do with that.
4. Ask good questions. Be curious and ask open-ended questions to genuinely engage others. The most fruitful exchange of ideas and lasting connections are prompted by excellent questions.
5. After a conversation, ask yourself what the 2 or 3 main ideas were to get used to listening with the intent of truly hearing and remembering.
Hone these skills and you'll be on your way to listening --and being heard-- on an entirely new level!