Listening: One of the Most Important Skills to Master

In a culture where action is most rewarded, the not-so-simple act of listening can seem far less important. Genuine listening is one of the most important skills you can learn in life. Its value in the workplace is clear and undisputed. Not only is effective listening vital to getting instructions from others, people need this attention as well.

“We all need it to sustain a sense of being understood in order to feel real and worthwhile. When people don’t get that need met, they have a sense of emptiness,” says Michael P. Nichols, Ph.D. Real listening makes you defer your own agenda, which is one reason it’s so difficult. But with a little practice it becomes easier to keep from interrupting and to avoid interjecting your own ideas into what other people have to say.

Try some of these suggestions to improve your listening skills:

  • Hear what others have to say first. Listen to their words and give them a fair chance in your mind. Don’t gloss over it as you build a counterpoint
  • When team members are distant, try reaching out and encouraging them to open up. Try asking “What’s going on with you (the project, or whatever)?” Then, show that you’re willing to listen. Hear them out before disagreeing. You will see your work relationships improve as you show that you’re a good listener
  • Put your emotions aside. Anger, frustration, jealousy, or just being too rushed to give attention will prevent the real message from coming through to you. Acknowledge the message by restating it: “Do I understand that you feel we should…?” or “Are you saying that if we…?”

One of the most complimentary things you can say to a person who works with you, for you, or whom you work for, is this: “I’ve been thinking about what you were saying.”
Remember that:

  • 31% of employees don’t believe their managers listen to them
  • 34% of employees don’t believe their managers are interested in their view
  • 32% of employees don’t believe their managers understand their workplace issues

Make a commitment today to become less of a talker and more of a listener, and enjoy the results.

Source: Leadership Management Australia (LMA) Newsletter, Aug‘05

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