“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by
people who have nothing to say.”
– Andy Stanley
Did you know:
- We spend an average of 55% of the day engaged in listening, and 70% in talking
- Most people only remember 17-25% of the things they heard in a given day
- The average woman speaks 20,000 words per day vs. 7,000 for the male counterpart
- To be fair, it is a fact that men only use half their brain to listen while women use the entire brain
To be an effective leader, listening is a critical skill. You cannot do everything yourself, so empowering others becomes your resource for information. You may have an opinion, and one that serves the conversation, but interruption only causes frustration and wasted time. Listen with intent, respect and curiosity — or you may miss that one great thought due to your impatience.
Follow up by saying, “What I’m hearing you say is…”. This is where miscommunication is discovered.
How can you become a more effective listener?
- Don’t interrupt. We are far too eager to interject our opinions. The other person isn’t halfway done, and we have either interrupted or have zoned them out so we can construct our reply. Try instead to just listen: focus their words, and after they have completed their thought, allow a pause to gather your thoughts. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but if everyone in the conversation practices this habit, the dialogue will be improved and the content will be constructive and beneficial. Additionally, if you are actively listening to others, they will learn how to actively listen to you.
- Make eye contact. Seems simple, but the skill we were all taught as children has become a lost art. Engaging with someone eye-to-eye is a form of respect. It tells the other person that they have your attention. Some say to never trust a person who can’t look you in the eyes when you talk, or when they talk to you. If that’s true, we have a problem.
- No distractions. Our phones, computers, other people and paperwork can cause us to multi-task rather than listen. The distractions are all around us, and that results in ineffective communication. If one takes the time to personally talk with you, rather than sending an email or text, show them they are valued by putting distractions on hold long enough to solve the situation at hand. Put your mobile phone face down, so you’re not tempted to look at it, or better yet, completely out of sight.
- Have an open mind. In most cases, we either interrupt or are already processing our response during a dialogue. We do this because we feel as if we must defend our point of view like Custer’s last stand. Relax, listen, and process what the other person is saying without a preconceived opinion. It’s a discussion, not a debate. It’s a win-win situation; the conversation becomes more efficient and the possibilities to discover new ideas are endless. And as a bonus, you earn respect.
- Create dialogue. Allow the dialogue to flow in an effort to find resolve, discover strategy, encourage creativity or simply hear someone out. Engage in a productive dialogue and in most cases, you will find it to be both effective and efficient.
You will immediately recognize the impact listening has when you see the trust and respect gained by those you talk with. Human interaction is the key to building trust, and it is through the rapport we have in a one-on-one setting that matters most. When you don’t listen, people stop talking. And when you lose communication, you lose control.
My father always told me, “God gave you two ears and one mouth; you should listen twice as much as you talk.” He was right — you can learn a lot when you listen, and really hear!
Leadership is a privilege. Make a difference today.