The lights are on but it seems that nobody’s home

One of the simplest and most sincere compliments you can pay somebody is to show that you are listening to them – hearing the message that they intended.Most of us would describe ourselves as good listeners. But are we? (If you would like a reality check, ask your partner.) Unless we have a hearing impairment, we can hear noise. Yet what we actually listen to is more to do with our mind than our ears.One sure way to kill commitment and motivation is to show people that you don’t really listen to them. Not only by what you say in response, but by what you do. If you want your people to listen to you, show that you listen to them.There is nothing magical about being a good listener. Good listeners are better at con-centrating – staying focused on the message of the speaker at that moment in time. They have the ability to overcome internal (mental) and external distractions. People with over inflated egos or who are very self-focused make poor listeners. Nothing the speaker is saying could be more important than what they are thinking.These are some of the things which distract our minds when listening.Preconceived ideas about the topic – established mindsets, attitudes, beliefs. Thinking about an unrelated thought triggered by the speaker. Selective hearing – only hearing what reinforces your point of view. Thinking about something said that you didn’t understand. Dislike of the topic or the speaker.Tuning out because you don’t value the opinion of the speaker. Assuming you know what the speaker is going to say. Wanting to jump in and respond immediately. Taking offence at something that was said. Thinking about what you will say when the speaker stops speaking. Fabricating a story in your mind to massage your ego. Focusing on a mannerism or something about the person’s dress. Resenting that the other person is dominating the conversation – turning it into a monologue – when your preference is to have an equal exchange of viewpoints, a two-way dialogue. A manager can employ some simple techniques to develop active listening skills. Paraphrasing: Repeating back to the speaker the essential meaning of what has been said. For example, “What I hear you saying is...” “Do you mean that...?” “So in other words are you saying...?” Reflecting feelings: Describing or acknowledging how the speaker might be feeling. “I’d feel frustrated too if I was in your position.” Summarising: Briefly summarising the key points the speaker has been making. “So in summary, are you saying that...?” “Well, your main concerns seem to be...” To actually use these simple techniques forces you to actively listen. By doing so you will develop greater understanding of other people’s thoughts and feelings and demonstrate that you are really listening, as opposed to hearing. “To be able to really listen, one should abandon or put aside all prejudice. When you are in a receptive state of mind, things can be easily understood. But, unfortunately, most of us listen through a screen of resistance. We are screened with prejudices, whether religious or spiritual, psychological or scientific; or, with daily worries, desires, and fears. And with these fears for a screen, we listen. Therefore we listen really to our own noise, our own sound, not to what is being said.” Jiddu Krishnamurti Indian philosopher and writer he First and Last Freedom (Harper, 1954) From the international best-selling books, ‘You Lead, They’ll Follow. How to inspire, lead and manage people. Really.’ Volumes 1, 2 and 3 by Daniel Kehoe published by McGraw Hill. for on-line orders. Daniel Kehoe provides a range of innovative tools for leadership, people management and business improvement to small, medium and large organisations including the You Lead, They’ll Follow Experience® and Systematic-Innovation® - one of the best ideas management systems on the planet. See T 08 9477 1135 E

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