Organizational Leadership Development Florida – EI Leadership
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5 Tips to Better Listening

We live and work in the Age of Distraction. Between the emails, phone calls, knocks on the door and texts, it can be hard to be fully present.   

Since most of us are multi-tasking to get more done and stretch 24 hours into 36 hours of productivity, who has time to fully listen? We talk at 150-200 words per minute and listen at 450 plus words per minute, so feeling like you know what that person is going to say seems natural. And with a steady stream of distractions, you do not miss what you did not notice. The relationship breaks down, or you end up with less than desirable results, and then wonder what happened.

Listening is a skill set that influences your performance as a leader. Like other bias that exists as humans and as leaders, most people feel they listen well – better than most – yet, they don’t.

In a study of doctors, patients were asked how many questions they had for their doctor, the average was four. Yet the number they asked was one; after 16 seconds of the patient talking, the doctor interrupted and continued talking. There wasn’t time or interest for more questions.

This is an example that is replicated throughout offices everywhere. There is little appreciation of the value of listening, because most people feel they know what is being said.  Here are 5 tips to improve your listening. Truth is listening cannot be faked, people know when they are being heard and when they are not.

Tips to Listen Better

1. Tune into what the person is saying. Tune out the rebuttal argument in your head. Too often people are preparing their response and missing the subtext and the innuendo in the message.

2. Put your phone away. Multi tasking is not a good idea when listening. And looking at your phone and mumbling doesn’t serve you or the one talking.

3. Set boundaries. Next time someone says, “have a minute?” say No. Ask them to schedule a conversation. You may want to set up a 5-minute team meetings, twice a day, to review things that come up during the day so you are not bogged down in the hallway.

4. Lean in. Engage with the speaker. Be curious and ask questions. Learn.

5. Resist jumping in with solutions. Even if you are the expert on handling these challenges, ask before you offer your advice. This person may be talking it out and just needed someone to listen.

Gallup has found a company with 100 employees can spend 17 hours a week clarifying communication. Developing listening skills is necessary for the bottom line and critical for quality relationships.

How do you feel when you are listened to? What about when someone sort of listens while doing something else? Does this impact your behavior or attitude toward that person?

Learn to develop skills that increase your impact and influence as a leader. 


About the Author Cynthia Howard RN, CNC, PhD

Performance Consultant. Unleashing potential in leaders and organizations through innovative performance development.