Chris Dyer, author of The Power of Company Culture, offers some great advice on how to build stronger relationships in work and at home…
Not every skill applies as well to your love life as it does to professional endeavors, but good listening is one of them. When it comes to communication, all relationships are equal! We all want to be heard.
That’s easy, if we make enough noise. Knowing that we’ve been understood is the bigger issue. It shows we’ve been treated with respect and sincerity—two things that are probably as important to your significant other as they are to your company’s customers and those who work to serve them.
When we feel understood, the spotlight shines on us. It makes us feel good and want to reciprocate. So, listening well encourages more of the same action from the other party. Listening is sexy, and the benefits extend far beyond date night. You can use that currency to bond with clients and employees … in healthy ways that won’t get you sent to HR for a long, uncomfortable talk.
We all think we are born to listen, but more often, we simply hear. Or we take shortcuts to process the enormous volume of sound that comes in through our ears on the way to our brains. In the workplace, though, shortcuts can get us into trouble.
Good listening gives us good data, and that allows us to make better decisions. Operating on too little information forces us to make assumptions. We misinterpret people and make them angry, or at least, we fail to connect. This happens with our colleagues at work, our significant others, and—quite commonly—with customers who are the lifeblood of our businesses.
I was introduced to the value of heightened listening when, earlier in my career, I joined an executive roundtable. People shared important information, and I thought I was doing well just waiting my turn to respond. When I opened my mouth, though, it became clear that I wasn’t prepared to speak my piece. I was winging it; I knew it, and those in the group knew it too.
I found that the members who made the most incisive contributions were the ones who were quietest most of the time. They took notes and interjected brief, clarifying questions—but, for the most part, they listened. Intently. I realized they were listening to comprehend and internalize what others were saying, not just waiting for the moment when they could reply.
It sounds simple and intuitive, but listening deeply takes self-control, focus, and practice. Try working these techniques into everyconversation:
- Be quiet and pay attention while other people are speaking—no multitasking!
- Listen to understand the person’s point, or to recognize what they wantto share, even if they can’t articulate it yet.
- Interrupt politely to ask for clarification—only when necessary!
- Afterwards, repeat back a summary of what you interpreted, asking if you got it right.
Consider how this can set a helpful tone with customers or de-fuse quarrels or misinterpretations in business meetings. When we get down to what is really being said, we can truly listen, and if appropriate, help. Modeling good form also prompts others to practice it.
It’s not always easy to put aside our daily emotional baggage during interpersonal exchanges. By listening thoughtfully—and by repeating what people say or asking questions to get to their real meaning—we reduce the chances of reacting based on our mood. We prevent misunderstandings and hard feelings, and we can focus on the real issues at hand.
Once you practice listening well, you’ll see where people are coming from more clearly than ever before. It’s exciting, and it’s sexy. Your employees, coworkers, customers—and the significant people in your personal life—will love you for it.
Chris Dyer is a performance expert, speaker and consultant. He is Founder and CEO of PeopleG2, a background check company. and author of The Power of Company Culture(Kogan Page, 2018).