Have you ever caught yourself nodding and saying “uh-huh” on auto pilot every 30 seconds during a conversation? Sure, nodding and saying “uh-huh” are signs that we are engaged in the conversation, but are we really engaged or are we just programmed to pretend like we’re paying attention? Chances are, you’ve been the latter on more than one occasion. So, how do we avoid being sucked into that auto pilot response track and instead be active and present listeners?
First, why is listening so hard? The biggest reason why listening is so hard is because of our preconceived notions and many of the biases that we bring to a conversation. When someone starts talking, do you immediately start to anticipate what they are about to say and maybe even move to help them along by completing their sentences? You’re not the only one. Many of us do it, not necessarily with the intent to be rude, but instead with the intent to help the story-teller along and maybe to even identify with what they are saying. The next time some one tells a story, try these 3 following things to help you become more of an active, in the moment and present listener.
- Manage your non verbal cues: Check your eye contact, body language and your distractions. If you aren’t a fan of looking someone straight in their eyes, try looking them in the bridge of their nose. When you are sitting and listening to someone, try leaning in to show that you are listening more and be proactive by eliminating your distractions, one of which is usually our cell phones.
- Ask open-ended questions: It’s nice to say leave your biases at the door, but that is truly challenging, since our biases have likely been ingrained in us for years. As you work on a long-term goal of eliminating biases, try asking open-ended questions to gain more of an understanding of what the other person is saying and to actively show that you are listening.
- Say it back: Repeat! One of the best ways to better understand something is to repeat it back in your own words. Someone can say something to you a million times, but once you are able to say it back in your own words to that person, it’s clear that you were listening and that you understand.
Scarlet Says…Throughout this year, as you work towards exceeding your personal and professional goals, take the time to engage in the three steps above and improve your listening skills. In a world of short attention spans, over tasking and tighter time lines, active listening can easily take a back seat, but what better way to honor, respect and show good etiquette than by taking the time to actively listen.