By Adine Carter, MCM
MLEK Internal Communications Specialist
We know that listening is a jumbo piece of the communication puzzle. But all too often listening becomes one act within a ‘multi-task’ moment, something you do while also checking your email, or contemplating what else you could be doing instead.
Good listening is, in and of itself, a multi-tasking activity. You must fully engage in listening to get the most out of what someone is telling you. It makes you a better communicator, and you may learn something along the way. Here’s how to do it better:
Pay Attention to Body Language
Is the person with whom you are speaking leaning in? He may be working up to his primary message, so stay tuned. Is she leaning away? She may sense you are disengagement – so lean in and prove she has your full attention. Does she close her eyes, put her hands in front of her mouth? She may be self-conscious. Laughing? Nervous. Crossed arms? Defensive. If you aren’t face-to-face, listen to tone of voice, speed and volume. Close your eyes and picture the person’s facial expression and body language based on what you hear. It will provide rich context for what the speaker really means.
Be Patient With Pauses, and Control your Body Language Around a Pause
If the speaker pauses, don’t fill the space. Look him in the eye and wait for him to speak. Something important is about to follow.
Observe Word Choice
Does she say ‘we & us’, or ‘me & I’? This could offer great insight into whether she feels like she is working alone or on part of a team. Are the words more positive/negative than you’d expect? These nuances can provide a jump-off point for important further dialogue.
If you are listening to someone, pretend he or she is the most important person in the world and this is your only chance to hear what he/she has to say. Give your full attention. If you are too busy, be honest and say “I have too much on my mind to give you my undivided attention, but I can give you 30 minutes on Thursday. You’ll have my full attention, but be mindful that all I have is 30 minutes”. Then stay good on your end of the bargain – you will be very glad you did.