Want to Lead Better? Learn to Listen
Listening is an Essential Leadership Skill
There was a study conducted back in the 1970’s that looked at how men and women engage in conversation. What the study was looking for was to determine how often one conversational partner interrupted the other. The study is fascinating (if you’re into social psychology), and takes a unique look at the roles between men and women in varying conversations.
In 2014 the study was more or less replicated. And the new study found similar conversational patterns. The researchers in this study calculated the number of minutes of conversation, and tallied up the number of interruptions. The result was that every 1 to 3 minutes an interruption occurred. Depending on the dynamics of the conversation (male to male, male to female, etc.) the interruptions were more or less often.
Without reading the entire text, we can come to a pretty well defined conclusion: most people don’t have a conversation to listen to the other person, but instead engage in conversation in order to be heard (and they can’t even wait their turn to be heard).
Learn to Listen as a Leader
When you talk about leadership, there is a very wide variety of topics that go along with it. When you boil it down to fundamentals, however, you’ll notice that a few things stand out. Being a good listener is one of them. How are you expected to lead, if the people you are leading feel their voice is never heard?
There are a few steps to take in order to be an effective listener.
Mind your Attention – When someone is talking to you, focus on them. This can be tricky for many people, because they feel they are giving too much attention to the person talking. But just like when you’re on stage acting, make everything a little more dramatic.
You can practice this with people. Next time you’re casually talking with someone, ask them to look at the table while you talk. Talk to them for a couple of minutes and see how it makes you feel (and how much you think they actually heard). Then ask them to maintain eye contact and see how that makes you feel. When the person talking is your sole focus, they will inevitably feel better about the conversation.
Don’t Just Hear – You have probably heard it before: there is listening and there is hearing. We hear a lot, but we don’t truly listen to much. So what is the difference?
Listening involves an active mind. As the person is talking, take into account how they say it. See the expressions on their face, and determine how much passion they are putting behind their words. Discover their feelings, so that you can adjust your response to validate them and their feelings.
Along with this is minding your body language. Different actions can speak volumes as to what you think. If someone says something you don’t agree with and you roll your eyes, it is only going to irritate. If you cross your arms, you come across as defensive. Be careful with how you act, and truly dedicate brainpower to listening.
Hold Your Commentary – Interrupting sends negative signals every single time. It tells the person talking that you don’t care what they have to say; it says that their opinion is worthless; and it puts them on the defensive so that they won’t truly listen to what you have to say.
Besides the negative signals, interrupting doesn’t allow you to gather the information needed. Your mind is trying to complete their thought, and the majority of the time it completes it incorrectly. Allow the other person to finish their thought, then ask clarifying questions, and ultimately respond.
Just remember, you can’t listen if you’re busy formulating your response.
What Didn’t They Say? – Here’s the hard part. Most people are candid with what they say, especially when it’s a difficult subject. Paying attention to what they aren’t saying is important to truly understand what they are trying to get across.
Much of their communication will come across in their body language. Some will be in topics that they allude to, but never come right out and say. And a lot of it will be something you can kind of guess at, but won’t know for certain.
Using discretion, you can ask clarifying questions to bring out their thoughts and feelings.
Listen Closely, Lead Better
Here at Big Sky Collision Center in Billings, our goal is to make sure that every one of our employees is trained as a leader. And that means communication skills are imperative. It means that we all have to work on listening instead of hearing. In the end, everyone gets along a whole lot better when we listen instead of waiting for our turn to be heard.
Big Sky Collision Center fixes cars after they have been involved in accidents. We are one of the leading auto body shops in Montana, and in some instances across the nation. If your vehicle is damaged, bring it to the best shop in the area. Of course if you’re just looking for auto detailing to get your car cleaned up, we offer that as well.