For an extrovert listening doesn’t always come naturally. Listening holds incredible power, and there are ways to master the art in every day interactions.
Recently I attended a bi-monthly management meeting, with all usual suspects in attendance. Rather than get caught up in the general exchange, I decided to observe the behavior of a particular manager. The style in which he engaged with his peers was highly animated and vocal, with an ongoing tendency to cut people off mid sentence. There were even times where he’d ask a question without providing the opportunity for his peers to finish the answer. It then dawned on me that this was a regular occurrence, and a trait the group generally accepted. No wonder the meetings became stale and undervalued.
Extroverted Managers and Directors need to be forever mindful of their listening qualities. It’s almost a double- edged sword, and I personally fall into this category. As effective leaders, we are generally called upon for the skills we have as ‘communicators’ – a strong vocal procession, clear articulation and an ability to confidently engage individually, and also within the collaboration of a group. What we often tend to forget is that listening forms a big part of overall communication, and is a highly developed skill that requires mastery.
So how do we become better listeners?
Through active or reflective listening we are genuinely interested in understanding what the other person is thinking, feeling, wanting or what the message means. And it it’s only through active listening that we become better listeners.
Here are some ways we can listen more effectively:
Eliminate outer distractions – Giving someone your full attention is very important whilst listening, so tune out from all that is going on around you and make your focus on the individual only.
Eliminate inner distractions – Turn that voice off in your head and don’t allow your mind to wander. Work on your presence. By being present your focus will be outward and not inwards.
Pay close attention to body language – and in particular the face and hands. Watch for non-verbal cues giving suggestions as to how the spoken information is to be interpreted. Also be mindful of your body language.
Listening to tone – will allow you to understand the persons emotional state beyond words. By listening to tone we are listening for ‘what isn’t being said’. Through tone we can learn a lot about the individual like their culture and their values.
Resist the urge to respond or react – Silence is powerful. Let the words communicate with you freely. They are not free if you are already deciding what you're going to say.
To listen effectively is a powerful skill that can be learnt and mastered. You will gain more respect and esteem through listening rather than through talking. So take more time in your day to listen to people. You will be amazed with the results you get.
Ana is a Coach, Consultant & Speaker. She works with individuals & groups to align consciousness with innovation, leadership and social responsibility. Also an athlete, Ana has played sport across most continents. She's President/Co-Founder of a social impact program in Guinea West Africa, and is an advocate for young women and children aspiring to dream.