I was trying out a new restaurant that opened in our town this week. Everyone was raving about it so I was very excited to test it out for myself. After looking at the menu and figuring out which perfect entrée to choose, I ordered and sat back to take in the new surroundings and view the local people. While my eyes scanned the bright new room, I attempted to have a discussion with my husband about what had happened during our day. All of a sudden I saw a smirk come to my husband’s face and I realized I wasn’t answering his questions but rather submerged in the small universe around us. I laughed and said: “I guess I’m not listening to what you are saying. I am so sorry.” How did he know I wasn’t focused on our dialogue?
Disconnecting from a conversation can happen to all of us in both our professional and personal lives. We may be in a face-to-face communication, on the phone, emailing or texting. We suddenly stop being in the conversation. We aren’t paying attention to the dialogue and cut-off the speaker.
When we are strategically listening, those around us feel it and sense our intentions. So how do you prove you are really listening?
Be focused on the person
Active listening must be deliberate, committing to the person we are connecting with. Our eyes tell all, so make sure they are telling the speaker we are here for them. Unlike me, allowing my eyes to take in all the distractions of the new restaurant crowd, stay tuned to the person you are speaking. While on the phone try to stay with the conversation and not do other things. When emailing or texting, try to respond to what is being asked.
Ask caring and specific questions
We all love to have meaningful conversations but that requires the listener to engage the speaker with open-ended questions that relate to what is being shared.
Why do you feel that way?
What is the best solution for you?
How can you contribute using your unique skills and strengths?
Who else can you reach out to for help?
Rephrase or summarize what you heard
People know we are showing up and actively listening when we are able to restate what we think we heard. It is very satisfying to feel that we are being clearly understood and validated in a two-way conversation. First summarize the points and then take a few moments to add your comments.
Thanking other people for a worthwhile dialogue can deepen any work or personal relationship. We show respect and appreciation by words as well as body language and facial expressions.
- Use honest language
- If emailing or texting, state your gratitude for all their help and contributions.
- Remind the speaker that you are happy to be there for them and value the time spent together.
How do you lead with active listening? What tips have worked for you in showing someone you are “in the conversation”?