Good listening is recognized as one of the most important skills you need as a business leader. How do you define good listening, though? Without a strong definition, you won’t know how to use listening to improve your relationships, your ideas and your career. While listening requirements may differ based on your profession, there are a few overarching tips to better your communication.
First, lean into the idea of “active listening.” In short, take a moment to listen to the person talking, then begin your reply by paraphrasing and confirming what the other person said. For instance, if someone says there was an instance when he or she was treated unfairly, respond by saying what you heard the person say and then give your feedback and perspective. It makes the other person feel heard or, at minimum, listened to. And if it turns out you misunderstood, then the person can immediately give you the correct words.
Second, be fully present in listening when someone is talking and fully present in talking when you’re expressing yourself. It’s easy to think about your rebuttal as people are talking — which means you aren’t really listening as well as you could be. Even if it’s an argument, keen listening can allow you to catch key words or ideology that will help you see the root of the misunderstanding.
Third, seek out key common ground so you can build a better framework to listen. Good listening skills aren’t just about hearing the words, but understanding the context the words come from. There may be an important detail, such as your colleague not sleeping well the night before or that he or she skipped breakfast, and you’ll be able to relate that to the last time the same situation happened to you — and how you felt. The better you can create this common ground, the easier it’ll be to truly listen to the other person.
Finally, throw out the word “but” and use the word “and” or “also.” “But” is a powerful word, as it can easily negate the statement before it: “I know you feel that way, but this still needs to be done” gives the impression you may not have been listening or may not have taken the words seriously. Instead, “I know you feel that way and I’m trying to find a way to still get this done” gives the impression you want everyone to win. Careful use of these modifiers can make your active listening and other strategies even more powerful.