Communication is not competitive. No one likes speaking to someone who does not listen. Don’t make people waste their words. Do your part in conversations to keep things going in a productive manner and lead and learn along the way.
With screen time becoming more prevalent, nurturing and maintaining active listening is ever more critical. According to a 2018 Nielsen Company report, the US average person spent approximately 10 hours and 39 minutes each day using smartphones, computers, video games, radios, tablets, and TVs. That number comes from 2018. We can only assume that this statistic will continue growing with the introduction of ubiquitous zoom meetings and quarantine life added to the list.
Spending half of our days with our faces in a screen, typing to everyone, and no one, in particular, has an adverse effect on human connection and communication skills. Humans lose humanity as social media, email, and text messages become intermediary of our words. We say things in ways behind that screen we would never say in person. Basically, we don’t talk, and when we do talk, we don’t know-how to convey our point.
I get it, sometimes an emoji is a pretty succinct way of getting the point across. But, what happens when we need to speak? Will we remember how? Without face-to-face interactions, we lose the beauty of poetic license and the art of conversation. Things get lost in translation, and we tend to forget to listen when we are focused on getting our message across. And of equal importance are the physiological and psychological effects, including the inability to pick up on social cues (source-Journal Computers in Human Behavior)
Practice Active Listening
Active listening uses your brain and ears to hear with the intent to learn, connect, communicate, and/or be entertained. Listening is a critical component of any conversation, furthermore relationship. To be an active listener is to comprehend and let the speaker know you are not only receiving their words but are also understanding and empathizing with what they are saying. You may disagree, but you will hear them with your mind open and free from judgment or a preconceived attack.
Why Active listening?
Active listening is a coveted soft skill because people with people-skills get the most out of personal and professional life. Think about it, who do you most want to speak to, someone who listens and responds like they have some sense, or talks at you, around you and over you? You want to speak to someone who speaks back and adds something meaningful to the discussion.
Ways to Actively Listen
Wait Your Turn
Resist the urged to interrupt. Be courteous – wait for the speaker to finish speaking, not pause, but wait until they have completed their thought/story or question. If you are in fear that you will forget what you want to say, write it down, type a quick note to yourself in your phone, or mentally bank an image that will jog your memory.
Show That You Are Listening
With both verbal and nonverbal clues, i.e., nodding, smiling, leaning in, or you might try “I see” hmm” , or “go on.”
Be sure to exhibit that you are engage in the conversation by asking question(s) Good rule of thumb is to ask specific questions if you need clarification or open-ended questions if you need elaboration. For example when seeking understanding you might ask, someone to elaborate on a point they made.
Another way to follow up and to ensure that you understand is to repeat/paraphrase what you just heard.
Demonstrate empathy or understanding with a compliment, solidarity, sympathy, depending on conversation topic.
Retort and Relate
Now is the time to open the rest of discussion. After you have done one or a combination of all of the above, share your own opinion, experience, or retort.
Listening with intent and without prejudice will foster understanding, and elevate emotional intelligence. This in turn makes for a better conversationalist, and human.
Engage in meaningful and lively conversation by actively listening. You will be surprised by how much you are inspired when you open your mind and ears.
For more Mavens 101 sources and references, check our reading list for a run down of literature and learnings that influence Geneen and other mavens.