When you do this, you’ll find you’ll be in a position where you actually understand a lot more. And you’ll be able to help more people and make sure that you’re giving them what they need, serving them in the right way.
But when you don’t do this, what you will definitely find is that you’re in a position where you are effectively making lots of assumptions. And probably making lots of mistakes and quite possibly really annoying the people that you’re trying to really help!
What I’m talking about is active listening.
So what do I mean by active listening?
Active listening is not about hearing – it is about taking the time to actually listen and ensure you understand and respond to the person who you are having a conversation with. It’s not about sitting there and waiting for your turn to speak.
Have you ever noticed that in many situations, most people are just literally waiting for their turn to be able to say something? They don’t think of it in those terms, and they may believe that they are engaging because they really want to convey some information to the other person.
But what they are doing is missing the point. It’s pretty important that you don’t miss the point especially when you work in an organisation and you working on some kind of major change. Whether that is a major change for the organisation itself or for yourself or for somebody else that you’re working with.
Because here’s the thing, if there is no understanding, there is no change.
Before anyone can change they need to understand what the change is, why it is important and how it will benefit them. And before you can expect them to understand you, YOU need to understand them. Which you can only do by active listening. Hearing is one thing. Listening is something else.
Perhaps you’re in the same position as me. I really like to help people, I really like to serve those around me and make sure they get the best possible use out of the time they spend with me. And I want them to get the maximum benefit from the experience I can bring to the table but I can only do that if I understand what it is that they’re doing first.
So How Do You Implement Active Listening?
Now I see some other people talk about active listening and giving lots of conflicting tools and techniques. What happens if you spend so much time trying to remember those tools and techniques is that you can become confused and miss the point. And the point is that active listening helps you really build rapport and understanding about what they need. That real rich understanding of the problem they’ve got.
I mean to me it’s a little bit like going on a training course.
Lots of people go on training courses whether that’s for a day or two, or a week. Perhaps it’s an online course or a set of training manuals. But here’s the thing – often they are just going through the motions. And when they get back to the office they don’t actually implement what they’ve learned. They don’t apply that in their role and therefore the time that’s spent on that course or reading around that subject is wasted. It just becomes what’s known as shelfware, something that you really aren’t using actively in your life.
And that’s like hearing but not listening. If you are having conversations and then you are not taking that information and really applying it to their situation so that you understand what’s going on, then it’s the same as that training course. You have basically just wasted the time which you’ve had with that person and you have lost the opportunity to understand and therefore help.
So let me ask you, are you going to listen with the intent of understanding?
Are you going to develop the skills of active listening?
Or are you just going to be looking for another course, that you’re not going to apply?
Now Stephen Covey said that “most people do not listen with the intent of understanding, most people listen with the intent of replying.” Don’t be that person!