One of the best skills you can learn as a leader how to listen. Strong listening skills allows you to build trust, solve problems and build relationships.
Here are 5 tried and true techniques for becoming a better listener:
- Validate instead of providing solutions. Many people listen to provide a solution instead of listening for empathy and understanding. Validation can sound like, “it sounds like that impacted you in a negative way” or “it is understandable why you would feel that way.”
Validation is about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, and then affirming and recognizing the way a person felt or reacted was understandable.
- Engage in active listening. Active listening includes verbal and non-verbal cues that lets the other person know you are listening. This can include:
- Nodding your head every now and then to show you are paying attention (but don’t be a bobble head!).
- Keeping eye contact. Don’t look around and get distracted by something else.
- Speaking of being distracted, don’t look at your phone or do something else while listening. Turn your body toward the person who is speaking to you to show that he or she has your undivided attention.
- Be genuinely curious. Ask open ended questions to gain clarity or more information. Questions that start with “how, what or when” work very well.
For example, “when did you start to feel this way?” or “what happened after that?”. This will show the person who is talking to you that you are interested in what they have to say.
- Paraphrase. Paraphrase the idea or message back to the person speaking to you to see if you are understanding what he or she is trying to tell you. This may sound like, “So it sounds like when Roger kept interrupting you during the meeting it made you feel embarrassed and belittled.”
Paraphrasing provides an opportunity for the speaker to clarify what he or she is tying to communicate or confirm that you are understanding what he or she is trying to say. Both are positive outcomes.
- Ask for clarification. If you are not following what the other person is trying to tell you, ask for clarification. Pause the conversation and ask for the speaker to try to explain it to you in another way.
Be sure to use “I” statements versus “you” statements. For example, “I am not sure I am following, can you repeat what you just said so I can make sure I am understanding?” is more effective and less confrontational than “you’re not explaining clearly; I’m not following.”
- Listen to understand. Listen with an open mind and an open heart. Don’t listen to give a response or share your opinion. Listen to better understand the person who is talking to you and to build a genuine connection based on empathy, compassion and understanding.
Remember, as Epictetus said, “we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”