Smart home devices saw record sales over Christmas, according to Business Insider. Amazon’s Alexa took the lead in these sales and this technology is taking the world by storm using one key skill – listening.
Listening is becoming a lost art in the human world, according to Forbes. In our high-tech, fast-moving world, our attention spans are at an all-time low of eight seconds. Our brains produce up to 50,000 thoughts a day, so we need to find ways to channel those thoughts for positive purposes and remember how to push thoughts to one side to stop and listen when we need to.
So how can we rediscover the art of listening, and focus on it as an essential skill? How can we make sure we’re modelling good listening across our businesses?
Building effective relationships
Children are the most perceptive, wise and simplest way to test your listening skills. Children have a lot to say, and a lot of questions to ask. They know if you’re really listening, and if you’re not, they’ll let you know by repeating themselves until you take notice, or by resorting to unruly behaviour to get your attention. If adults behaved in this way, we’d probably all be much better listeners.
It’s easy to dismiss what a child has to say as unimportant, or to half-listen. Their stories may seem trivial, and the problems may seem small compared to your own issues. However, the stuff that’s small to you is huge to them, and if you listen to what’s important to them now, they’re more likely to share things with you when they’re older.
Listening is an investment in a relationship. It’s showing up, switching on, being 100% in the room and showing you care. This applies in all walks of life and is the critical factor in building effective relationships. Practice makes perfect, and you can start today.
Put your opinions on pause
When we listen, we automatically form assumptions about what a person is trying to say and look for areas of potential debate, according to Mindful.org. What we should be doing is putting our belief and opinions to one side and focusing on reading between the lines of a person’s words. Where are they coming from? What has led them to feel this way? How can you understand the way they are feeling and interpret the way they are acting? Can you listen with empathy, without judgement, to encourage trust, prompt further sharing and build strong foundations for your relationships?
Maybe you have a client who is really demanding. Nothing you do is enough, and the client is always questioning and pushing for more. The client may be acting this way, but she is still your client, so she wants to work with you. Can you listen more deeply to find out where the insecurities and issues are coming from, and find a way to work with her on a mutually-rewarding solution? A little understanding can go a long way to a maintain wobbly relationship and to heal broken lines of communication. Try picking up the phone, saying hi, and just listening. Ask questions to find out more and try to truly understand the issues. This way you can work towards positive solutions together.
Clear a space in your mind for listening
Mindful.org recommends making space within yourself to prepare for listening. They relate this to clearing a space on a cluttered desk to work. The mess you put to one side will still be there when
you’re ready to deal with it, but you need to push it to one side for now.
This can be especially useful if you’re facing a stressful meeting or a difficult conversation. You can do this by closing your eyes, relaxing, and mentally scanning your body for pressure points or places where tension is being held. Breathe deeply, let all thoughts and preconceptions go, and open your mind to allow new thoughts and ideas to flow in. You may find it helps to breathe in your favourite colour and breathe out your worries, just for a few seconds, until you are calm and ready to listen.
Find out more
At Catalyst Coaching and Mentoring we know all about deep and active listening skills and we use these in our Executive and Group Coaching sessions. Listening should come as second nature to us all but it’s a skill many have lost in our busy working lives. Catalyst can help you to rediscover your inner listener. Talk to Catalyst about Coaching, mentoring or consultancy.