Art of Listening: The skill every successful manager and leader have mastered

Listening 01

Listening is an art that when done well can deliver tremendous benefits which are useful in your professional, social and personal life. It is a key to have better human relations. The goal of listening well is to achieve win-win communication. Win-win communication not only increases understanding, affirmation, validation, and appreciation, but it also creates an atmosphere of trust, honour, and respect. When someone truly listens to us, we feel special. So everybody wants to be treed as special.



There is a growing realization of the importance of solid (concrete) listening and communication skills in business, social life and human relations. The lack of attention and respectful listening can be costly leading to mistakes, poor services, misaligned goals, wasted time and lack of teamwork and poor human relations. That is why all specialized training programs start with a foundation of listening skills. You can’t sell unless you understand your customer’s problem; you can’t manage unless you understand your employee’s motivation and problem and you can’t gain team consensus unless you understand each team member’s feelings about the issue at hand. People cannot understand you unless you understand other. How to listen is more important than listening. By listening in a way that demonstrates understanding and respect, you cause rapport to develop, and that is the true foundation from which you can sell, manage or influence others. Let us study simple incident which explains us the importance of listening.

 Subhash, a dispatch clerk in M/s National Roadways in Mumbai, gave Maganram, a new driver, an assignment to go to Nagpur to make a goods delivery. When Maganram arrived in Nagpur, he called Subhash for further instructions. As Subhash gave Maganram the necessary information, Maganram got a strange feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Maganram asked Subhash for the complete address, which was M/s Zuber Industries, Rafi Ahmad Road, Nagpur, Uttar Pradesh. Well, Maganram was in Nagpur, but it was in Maharashtra. Maganram was thousands kilometer away from where he was supposed to be. Not only did this cost the company time and money, but also the owner of the goods was not pleased. What caused this expensive mistake? Ineffective listening by both parties. In his haste, Maganram didn’t listen to all the information that Subhash gave him, and Subhash neglected to get accurate acknowledgment from Maganram stating that he understood the instructions.

let’s take examples of good listeners. Think of how best doctors listen before making a diagnosis. After asking, “What’s wrong?” the best doctors (specialists) listen attentively to the patient’s words and tune in to any unusual symptoms. They write them on case paper. While being keenly aware of what’s “going around,” doctors listen so as not to jump to any conclusions. Then, after retrieving through all the available information, the doctor paraphrase, confirms and summarise the information and can make an accurate diagnosis.

Guidelines for Good Listening:

Give Speaker Your Undivided Attention:

  • When somebody wants to talk with you, put everything else out of your mind and actually be there with them while he or she are talking. You cannot possibly listen to them if you are thinking about other things you would be doing, or have to do. Remember that someone who listens well easily establishes rapport with others. Good listeners attract others because they focus on the speaker completely.  Listen closely to your intuition.
  • The best example of this is to observe how blind people communicate. Since they do not have the gift of sight, they focus on their other gifts and develop them. Their hearing is acute, and they can “people read” by focusing on a person’s voice, tonality, speed, attitude, and the words that the person uses.  Those of us whose business depends on the telephone should use the same method of listening. Be physically and mentally present in the moment.

Listen To What Is Actually Being Said:

  • This is especially true if you are in a disagreement. It is very easy to pick out the things in what your speaker is saying that you want to hear and can throw back at them. Many time people listen to react. Good listeners never do that. Mind that this is not some college debate competition where you score points for winning an argument.  Your actions here and now will dictate the course of the rest of your relationship with the Speaker.
  • Pay attention to the logical content of what someone is saying but be mindful of how he says it to discover his true feelings about the subject. A person’s feelings are key determinants in decision-making. If you listen to emotions rather than words, you will notice that you have a deeper understanding of how decisions are made. You must tune out your own reactions and emotions if you want to be an active listener. Selective filtering happens when the listener only hears those parts of the conversation that confirm his/her own opinions and views. Don’t be a selective listener.

Look At Them When Speaker is Talking To You:

  • Have you ever tried to talk to someone that refused to make eye contact with you? It is very disheartening, especially when you have something important to say. When talking with your Speaker, actually look at them and not around the room. Make looking casual don’t make the speaker conscious.

Notice The Hidden Emotional Tone Of Your Speaker:

  • Very often, the Speaker won’t say exactly what is on their mind straight away and it is up to you to draw them out. By looking for his emotional tone, through their body language, voice inflections, words used etc., you will get a very good indicator of what is actually bothering them and also how it is affecting them.
  • Listen by using the ears to “hear” the message, the eyes to “read” body language (when listening to a person), the mind to visualize the person speaking (when on the telephone), and intuition to determine what the speaker is actually saying. Match the momentum, tone of voice, body language, and words used by the speaker. Please use common sense when matching.


Don’t Disturb The Speaker:

  • Don’t interrupt the speaker, which makes the speaker feel that what he or she has to say is not important.  Don’t finish the other person’s sentence. It implies that the listener already knows what the speaker is about to say. Don’t Change the subject without even realizing it. Don’t Look at your watch, signaling that you are wasting his time and the speaker is wasting your time.
  • Provide the silence necessary to encourage speech.  Active listeners spend 70% of their time listening and only 30% of their time talking.

Take Notes If Required:

  • Always be prepared to take notes when necessary. That means having writing tools readily available. But keep in mind don’t think to take notes important. Your main activity is not to write notes but to listen. Be attentive.

Acknowledge Your Speaker:

  • To say “I understand” is not enough. People need some sort of evidence or proof of understanding. Prove your understanding by occasionally restating the core of their idea or by asking a question which proves you know the main idea. It is required to prove that you understand and not only listening. A correct acknowledgment can very often completely resolve a dispute in one go. It has a two-fold effect. First, It tells the Speaker that you have heard and understood what he or she are saying and second, It makes them feel better by releasing some of the emotional baggage that may have built upon the subject.
  • When there is a lot of emotional baggage attached to a situation, it is good to acknowledge them by repeating in your own words what he or she have just said to you. Repeat the information your speaker sharing with you by saying, “I hear you saying … Is that correct?” If the speaker does not agree, repeat the process to ensure understanding. If you are good at language try to paraphrase the information given by the listener. But care should be taken that the contents given by speaker are not changed. Remain curious and ask questions to determine the accuracy of understanding the speaker.

Remain Calm:

  • If the Speaker is angry, very often he will lash out at you because you are there and you are someone he can take their frustration out on. While this may not be pleasant and the ideal way to handle a situation, realize that it is just a way for the speaker to vent and resist the urge to get angry back, it will only make things worse. See that you take other views seriously.
  • Sometimes it helps to tell people, “I appreciate your position” or “I know how you feel.” You have to prove it by being willing to communicate with others at their level of understanding and attitude. We do this naturally by adjusting our tone of voice, the rate of speech and choice of words to show that we are trying to imagine being where he or she is at the moment. Listening to and acknowledging other people may seem deceptively simple, but doing it well, particularly when disagreements arise, takes true talent.

Let Your Body Speaks:

  • Your body language is also important. Face the other person. Make eye contact with the Speaker, take cues from the other person as to how much eye contact he is comfortable with. Adopt an open posture. Try to relax as you interact with the other person. Be alert to listen with ears, eyes, and mind. Lean discreetly toward the other person, not threateningly.

Concluding Listening:

  • Ask questions to clarify and to check assumptions. Ask probing questions. Clear up misperceptions re-state or paraphrase them. take out the volatile phrases or language. This is called “laundering” language and it can reduce friction.
  • Summarize facts and feelings. Reframe issues, focus on the interests, not positions. Try to communicate directly with the other person.  Find the key points or issues. know when to bring to closure and when to test for agreements. Be forward thinking, try to focus on the future.

Remember that effective listening can open many doors. If you listen with your eyes, your ears, and your mind, you will always get the information you need. These are the techniques to be a good listener. Now the other part if you are is in the position of speaker and somebody else is listening to you, which is not a good listener, then following are the steps to handle the situation. You can categorize yourself in the given classification and can improve your listening skill.



Types Of Bad Listeners and How to Deal Them?

  • In school reading, writing, learning taught but listening is not given importance. Knowing why someone is a poor listener can help you to relate better to them. We cannot expect that poor listeners can be transformed overnight. Listening remains a two-way street, taking a combined effort as well as understanding from both sides.
  • Improving someone’s listening skills is not as simple as talking louder. Understanding the problem, accurately assessing and identifying their individual limitations and following up with prescriptive training or appropriate management techniques can lay the groundwork for improved communication. Or simply you can make sure that your points get across and that your objectives are met.

Self-Absorbed:

  • Such individuals place their own priorities above yours. They may be opinionated, stubborn or perhaps overly driven to have you agree with them. As a result, they come off as “knowing it all” and not really having the time or desire to listen to anyone.
  • When dealing with self-absorbed individuals, have them repeat what they hear. The intention is not to mimic but to understand and clarify what was said.  Periodically, it may be necessary to remind them not to dismiss an idea before considering it fully. Self-absorbed individuals need to learn that he doesn’t have to agree with others in order to listen. This realization can help them work toward being more open-minded.

Unfocused:

  • Typical tip-offs of unfocused individuals are a messy desk, constant forgetfulness and an inability to finish what he starts with. Unfocused individuals need direction and structure in order to accomplish their goals. Their inability to remain focused prevents them from fully understanding and taking action on what he hears.
  • One technique is to give them only as much information as he actually needs to get the job done. If priorities change, simply give them new instructions. While our style may be to share with others the overall picture, this can overwhelm unfocused individuals. He deals best with one-step at-a-time instructions.
  • Another technique to use with unfocused people is to try to prevent outside distractions when talking to them. Also, occasionally ask more questions to see if your message is getting through. In this way, unfocused individuals will realize that you expect their complete attention, and your probing will encourage them to ask questions about those things he doesn’t understand.

Rules-Driven.

  • Although capable of listening, these individuals have a tendency to be overly cautious. They focus on minor details so much that they are unable to see the big picture. Their blinders become like earplugs too, and they only hear part of what is being said.
  • Meet them where they are. Individuals who are rules-driven may be the trickiest of all to handle. While they hear, they do not relate to anything outside of their comfort zone. The problem begins when they are confronted with a project or request that doesn’t fit neatly into what they are accustomed to. Their immediate response is to bring to your attention all the reasons why something can’t be done, instead of taking the time to look at what you really need. It is important to recognize this when you are trying to get your message across on an approach or project that they do not agree with.
  • Keep in mind that these individuals are probably more preoccupied with the potential impact of what you are saying rather than on what you’re actually saying. He is probably thinking something along the lines of, “Don’t he realize what is involved in doing this?” or “This is going to mean a lot more work for me.” Making your expectations clear up front can help ease the concerns of rules-driven individuals.
  • He’ll feel more comfortable if you can explain a new project within the confines of the rules with which they are already familiar. If you are telling them something that will rearrange their priorities, be very explicit about your new expectations. Rules-driven individuals can spin their wheels and worry unnecessarily when things are changing. You can save lot of time by making them understand and feel comfortable with the “new order.”

Some Important and Effective Techniques For Good Listening:

Paraphrasing:

  • Restating a message, but usually with fewer words. Where possible try and get more to the point.
  • Purpose:
    • To test your understanding of what you heard.
    • To communicate that you are trying to understand what is being said. If you’re successful, paraphrasing indicates that you are following the speaker’s verbal explorations and that you’re beginning to understand the basic message.
  • When to Use:
    • When you want to know what speaker is thinking and what are his/ her feelings.
  • Example – 1:
    • Speaker: I just don’t understand, one minute my boss tells me to do this, and the next minute to do that.
    • Listener:  Your boss really confuses you.
  • Example – 2:
    • Speaker: I really think he is a very nice guy. He’s so thoughtful, sensitive, and kind. He takes my advice a lot. He’s fun to chat with.
    • Listener: You like him very much, then.


Clarifying:

  • The process of bringing vague material into sharper focus.
  • Purpose:
    • To untangle unclear or wrong listener interpretation.
    • To get more information
    • To help the speaker see other points of view
    • To identify what was said
  • Clarification by the listener:
    • I’m confused, let me try to state what I think you were trying to say.
    • You’ve said so much, let me see if I’ve got it all.

Perception Checking:

  • Request for verification of your perceptions.
  • Purpose:
    • To give and receive feedback
    • To check out your assumptions
  • Perception checking by the listener:
    • Let me see if I’ve got it straight. You said that you love your children and that they are very important to you. At the same time, you can’t stand being with them. Is that what you are saying?

Summarizing:

  • Putting together, organizing, and integrating the major aspects of the dialogue is called summarizing. Pay attention to various themes and emotional overtones. Put key ideas and feelings into broad statements. DO NOT add new ideas.
  • Purpose:
    • To give a sense of movement and accomplishment in the exchange
    • To establish a basis for further discussion.
    • To Pull together major ideas, facts, and feelings
  • Example:
    • We have discussed the problem a lot. Let us summarize the discussion. . The three major points of the discussion are…

Primary Empathy:

  • Reflection of content and feelings
  • Purpose:
    • To show that you’re understanding the speaker’s experience
    • To allow the speaker to evaluate his/her feelings after hearing them expressed by someone else
  • Basic Formula:
    • You feel (state feeling) because (state content)
  • Example:
    • Student: I just don’t know how I am going to get all this math homework done before tonight’s game especially since I don’t get most of this stuff you taught us today.
    • Teacher: You are feeling frustrated and stuck with math you don’t know how to do and you’re worried that you won’t figure it out before you go to the game. 

Advanced Empathy:

  • reflection of content and feeling at a deeper level.
  • Purpose:
    • To try and get an understanding of what may be deeper feelings
  • Example: 
    • I get the sense that you are really angry about what was said, but I am wondering if you also feel a little hurt by it.
    • You said that you feel more confident about contacting employers, but I wonder if you also still feel a bit scared.

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