When was the last time you asked someone, “How are you?” Not the, “How are you?” that is accompanied by pleasantries at the office cold brew keg on a Monday morning, but really taking the time to ensure that those around you felt heard? In the workplace, I believe it’s underestimated how much that question is not meant or valued. Being on a team can feel isolating, especially when the only expectation is the output you produce. Common pleasantries can be lost in the shuffle or even sandwiched between questions and requests.
Most would agree that, more often than not, the question is paired with a distracted listener. The intention was there, but the sincerity was not. This will lead to a loss of honest, genuine conversation and most likely, misaligned conversation.
I urge more people to take the time to ask, but ask with purpose. Being a good leader, even if you don’t have a team of direct reports, requires you to be influential to those around you. Honest communication is that key milestone in gaining trust and doing so through a rapport is extremely important.
But don’t just take my word for it, here are 6 key skills* in becoming a better listener (*from people who did the research):
- Pay Attention – Not to what you are going to say next or thinking of a story from your weekend. Really pay attention. Pick up on body language and cues. Create a comfortable environment.
- Withhold Judgement – Keep an open mind. Be open to their ideas, opinions and new or different perspectives. Good listeners don’t need to have their judgement known.
- Reflect – Don’t just repeat back, listen. Show that you understand (their ideas) and that you both are on the same page.
- Clarify – Ask questions! Be engaging. Show interest in their story or point of view. Ask questions to draw out a meaningful conversation that shows a thoughtful response.
- Summarize – Outside of professional interactions, this can seem forced or awkward but when you having a conversation that has any follow up or entails a next step – feel free to communicate that back.
- Share – No conversation is the same, so this step can be hard to gauge. Once your conversation begins to feel natural, here is where you can begin to introduce your own stories, thoughts and feelings. This can create a seriously awesome relationship with your peer/friend/colleague/boss.
Next time, try these skills out and really attempt to listen. These skills can help build relationships and even improve team morale. Being a good leader and listener doesn’t mean being the loudest person in the room or having the largest title. It does, however, offer up the opportunity to be the most genuine.