Leadership is most often associated with traits such as vision, decisiveness, and charisma. But it is listening skills that sets a good leader apart from the rest of the pack. The best leaders use listening skills to create an environment of trust, collaboration and innovation. They also use them to build understanding and clarity, instead of confusion.
Effective listening goes far beyond just hearing words; it involves fully engaging with people to understand their thoughts, emotions and perspectives. It also involves taking actions to complete what is being communicated. The following are some practical tips to help you become a more effective listener, so that you can foster deeper connections and meaningful interactions with others.
Listening Skill No. 1 – Giving Your FULL Attention!
The foundation of great listening is to be present with others. When you are not fully present, we call that splitting your attention. People know when you are splitting your attention and it sends a very clear message that they are not important! To give your full attention you must clear your mind of distractions. Put away your cell phone and other devices. Honor others with your undivided attention. This means maintaining full eye contact and displaying open body language. When you do this, you make others feel truly valued and important. You create an experience that makes others feel special!
Listening Skill No. 2 – Showing Empathy
Empathy is a key part of what we call “deep listening”. Surface listening is simply skimming the words of a conversation. Deep listening requires you to immerse yourself in the other person’s perspective, emotions and thoughts. When you do this, you allow yourself to better understand their world and experience. This requires you to acknowledge their feelings and experience to validate their view or reality.
Listening Skill No. 3 – Hearing Core Words
In all our decades of training and researching effective communication skills, we discovered that people have core words that are very important to them when they speak. If you really want to connect with people during the listening process, then you must hear and repeat back their core words for them to perceive you “get them.” This is why paraphrasing someone’s thoughts is such a bad idea, yet there are still coaches and trainers that promote this idea. When you paraphrase you tend to use your own interpretation and core words; this results in a true disconnect. To connect, hear and honor the other person’s core words.
Listening Skill No. 4 – Asking Good Questions
The best listeners also ask thoughtful questions that get others to take a deeper dive into their thoughts and feelings. Open-ended questions are extremely effective in getting others to clarify what they are thinking and feeling. Questions that start with “what” and “how” tend to get the best results.
The Secret Sauce for Leaders
Many leaders are credible, but fewer are credible AND relatable. Both factors are key to real influence, and listening skills are the secret sauce! They allow you to foster useful experiences and connections that enhance your credibility and likability!