How do you listen? There is a false belief that we listen to everything we hear but, active listening in communication can be a leader’s diamond if appropriately used. We are not born good listeners. This is one of those natural abilities that we lost in our quest to be less animal-like.
It is a skill that we can learn though and just like drinking a glass of water every day, the more of it that we do, the more benefits we will realise and the more proficient we will become.
The Purpose of Communication
Communication has a predetermined purpose. It is simple. We communicate to send and receive messages.
For communication to be effective, the Receiver must receive the Message in the same context that the Sender intended. If there is doubt or confusion about the message, it will be misinterpreted and the process of effective communication will be incomplete.
In many instances, because of noises, distractions, incongruence and other factors, communication may be destructive rather than constructive. This contributes to weak relationships, disagreement and at the extreme, resentment and total disregard.
Good leaders listen well. Great leaders listen actively. They have developed the skill of active listening so precisely that it is a seamless and admired art. They no longer think about doing it. It becomes an integral part of who they are and how they are experienced. They listen fully – with their eyes, body, emotions and of course, their ears.
Once you understand the purpose of communication and you commit to being more engaged and active with your audience, you will be setting yourself on a journey of continuous improvement towards becoming an admired and sought after communicator.
Active Listening – The Engagement Factor
But what does active listening mean?
The Cambridge Dictionary describes active as doing something practical rather than allowing a situation to develop by itself. This is a definition I particularly like because it speaks directly to control. It says doing something and not allowing it to take a life of its own. By doing something, I am in control of what goes into the situation which would also have a direct impact on the outcome.
Therefore, if I am active when I am listening, I am not allowing what I am hearing to take its own course. In other words, I am not just hearing. I am participating in listening.
How would my participation be measured? How would others know that I am active?
My demonstration of being active will be evident from what I do. For example: If someone is speaking to me and I am looking away or playing with my cell phone, I am not an active listener. I am not demonstrating to my audience that I have any interest in what they are saying.
I may hear and offer a grunt or “uh huh” to give the impression that I am listening but I am not respectfully active in this engagement.
Do you remember the purpose of communication?
If the message has not been received with the Sender’s intent, effective communication has not taken place. To achieve this, the Sender and Receiver must play their role.
What Is My Role As An Active Listener?
Becoming an engaging and active listener takes time, effort and practice.
It must be done wholeheartedly to be done effectively.
Have you paid attention to how you listen? Is it with your ears only or do you also use your eyes and body?
I am of the opinion that most of our communication takes place nonverbal.
According to Wikipedia, that means things like, gestures, body language, posture, facial expressions and distance play an important part in how and what we communicate.
So to fully grasp the complete essence and meaning of what message a Receiver is sending to you, you should be attentive and engaged.
If a co-worker comes into the office and says “good morning” and you do not observe that his or her shoulders are drooped and there is no smile on their face, you will not have “heard” that they are not at their best today. Having not heard that, you will go about your business with the assumption that all is well because they said “good morning”.
However, if you raise your head from your desk when he or she walks by and you actually see him or her, you would notice that although “good morning” was said, something might be amiss. With that knowing, you can ask a question and inquire whether you could render any assistance.
The latter is an example of active listening. You are connected, engaged and, even without words, you can determine if all is well with your co-worker.
In our instant, fast-paced lives today much of genuine, active listening goes out the window or passes with the wind that blows.
The Leader’s Diamond – Priceless
Effective leaders understand the power that lies in active listening. They are the ones who ask you a question and then shut up and give you an opportunity to answer. They do not assume or speak on your behalf.
They ask questions and look you in the eye to gauge the depth and emotion that accompanies your words.
Active listening is a foundation stone of assertive behaviour. When you assert yourself, you are tempered and understanding not reactive and hurried. You are interested in the reasoning and intent of your Sender. If there is something that you do not understand, you ask for clarity or give the information back to be sure that you have the intended context.
Leaders who demonstrate this kind of interest, engagement and care are the ones who gain additional respect and who earn a reputation of integrity and being empathetic. They become magnates for others and the “go to” resource when advice, guidance and support are needed.
How Would You Rate Your Active Listening?
- How do you listen?
- Now that you have had some time to read and reflect on your behaviours as a listener, does anything resonate with you?
- Do you feel a need to learn and do more to become a more effective communicator?
- Are people attracted to you because they feel genuine care and empathy from you when they are sending you a message?
These are some very important questions to ask yourself as you travel along your self-development path. They are simple questions but can have a life-changing impact on your ability, relationships and functioning, both personally and professionally.
Do you want to become a more active listener?
Then join our Mailing list, leave us a comment, like and follow us on Social Media and follow our Founder’s journey. Join the thousands around the world who have benefitted from our learning and management interventions.