Listening: The Forgotten Managerial Skill

by Zenobia Sethna.
In this age of self promotion, most people don't tire of hearing their own voices - gloating, complaining, advising, gossiping, what have you. Skills such as listening need to be trained in soft skills training courses. So, if you are the rare one who truly, actively listens to others, and does not talk much, you will stand out. Think about it - people pay a shrink good money to listen to their problems, cause its so rare in real life.
The Dalai Lama said, 'When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know, but when you listen you may learn something new.' Just one of the many benefits of listening. Your boss or your subordinates feeling heard and acknowledged, which would make them trust you more, is another.
Most people do not listen with the intent to truly understand, but rather with the intent to reply. And just because you're quiet and you let others do 75% of the talking, doesn't mean you're a good listener either. A powerful listener is able to pay attention to what another person is saying without getting distracted with their ego or personal agenda.
Professional Listening
So how do you sharpen your listening skills?

  • When interacting one on one, give the other party your undivided attention. Yes, that means stop fiddling with your damn phone and put it aside. The texts and phone calls can wait. Really.
  • Don't interrupt. Let the person speak freely. The goal is to shine the spotlight on them, not you.
  • Truly be “present,” instead of daydreaming or thinking about something else.
  • Make direct eye contact with the other party and lean in / forward to show you are interested. Likewise don't distract the talker (and show you are bored) by cracking your  knuckles, fidgeting, swaying your legs, or worst of all, yawn.
  • Pay attention to the body language of the talker - we know as much as 80% of communication is non-verbal. This is the number one lesson taught in investment banking schools in India. In other words, you can master the act of listening, but won't be a good listener if you can read body language. 'The most important thing in communication is hearing what ISN'T said', said Peter Drucker.
  • Forget outdated advice that tells you to repeat statements that you just heard, in order to show the talker that you were paying attention. Something like "So, Tenaz, what I hear you saying is that Geeta's work is really poor?" Really? What's the point? Repeating exactly what you heard a minute ago makes you sound like a parrot. Instead, stop repeating and offer some analysis or your interpretation of what the talker just said. Something like "So what you are getting at is that you may have to fire Geeta..."
  • You can show you're in sync with what the person is saying by using "yes", "yeah", "mhmm", "okay" occasionally.  This sounds trivial, but it's important to not act like a zombie and demonstrate some interest and comprehension.
  • Open the door to deeper communication by asking open ended questions that encourage reflection and interpretation.
  • Validate what you heard. Listening keenly does not mean you have to agree with everything you hear. You can disagree and even express your disagreement. You only need to show the other party that you value their opinion and they feel validated for expressing how they feel.

A wise man said 'God gave you two ears and only one mouth.' That surely ought to tell us something.
Imarticus Learning is India’s leading education institute, offering certified industry-endorsed training in Financial Services and the Analytics Domain. Each course also has a module on soft skills training.

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