It has never been harder than it is today to be a good listener. The noise and clutter that surrounds us gets louder and more intrusive by the day. We’re bombarded with TV noise, email noise, social media noise, radio talk show noise, texting noise, voicemail noise and a lot of other noise.
It’s been said that good communication starts with good listening. If that’s true, then where does good listening start in a noisy workplace environment? Good listening starts with intense focus. Listening must be job one. Failure to grasp that priority and act on it is a ticket to an early and unplanned exit from your company. Listen or be left behind and possibly left out.
Six ways to listen better
- Lean in. Close out the world. Put your smartphone away. Minimize other distractions.
- Embrace the awful. Even the most poorly presented information contains something important. The worse the presentation, the greater the need to focus like a laser. Stay in the moment.
- Take notes. Compile your notes. Review your notes. Summarize key points. Being on top of what was said will put you in control of subsequent conversations.
- Pay attention to what are called non-verbal cues — the behaviors a presenter or associate exhibits, not just their content. Do they look like they’re committed to what they’re saying? Are other people engaged with what is being said? Listening to non-verbal cues is partly hearing, but it’s largely about listening with your eyes.
- Confirm what you heard by restating the speaker’s point. This not only shows you are paying attention, but is assures that you leave with a clear understanding.
- Listen so you can add value. A good rule to follow is to not speak up unless you can add value to the conversation. You will do that if you pay attention to what is said. Your follow-up questions and comments will be spot-on.
Case in point
What do you do when you attend an important presentation by a person who speaks softly in a room with poor acoustics? Lean in. Sit on the edge of your chair. Focus with intensity. Ask for clarification of key points. Never take your eyes off the person speaking. Sit up straight. Ask for copies of the PowerPoint they’re using. You know the information is good, that it’s important and that it must be passed on by you to others, but it’s really difficult to take it all in. Listen or face the consequences of drifting off.
Ask yourself: What can I do today to be a better listener than I was yesterday? As you become a better listener, you will notice a difference in both your productivity and the level of respect you receive from co-workers. Everyone values a good listener. Listen like your job depends on it. It does.
Davis Young and Scott Juba own Fast Is Good℠ LLC, which offers communication training in 90 minutes or less.
Davis has provided communication training for some of the best known organizations in the country and, in recent years, has taught more than 200 college classes focused on communication.
Scott is an experienced communication trainer. He is a recognized thought leader and consultant on social media and the use of technology to communicate.
Material for this column is based on their book — Avoid Workplace Communication Screw-ups: They’ll Cost Money and Get You Fired! — published by Smart Business.