“I feel like I’m talking to a wall!” Judy told her co-worker over lunch. “Whether at home or work, I find myself repeating my requests as everyone is just too darn busy to stop what they’re doing and truly listen!” Do you often feel as if your words are falling on deaf ears? Learn to listen with L-O-V-E.
Listen with your eyes. There is a big distinction between being heard and feeling heard. The difference can be as simple as stopping long enough to give someone the gift of direct eye contact. When someone enters your office or simply hands you change from your coffee purchase, remember to look up and acknowledge their presence eye to eye.
Observe beyond someone’s words. Why? Hearing and listening are two different skills. Hearing means your ears are in proper working order, but listening involves hearing beyond someone’s words for the true message. For example, have you ever asked your supervisors or colleagues if there’s anything you can do to support their efforts, and they hesitantly answer, “No, I can manage”? Does their tone of voice, rate of speech or body language suggest a different message? In that case, ask, “Are you sure? I get the feeling maybe I could lighten your load. Would you like me to ...” and offer your services to a specific project or assignment.
Verify the content. Understanding and interpreting the message accurately can be challenging with so many distractions, workplace slang and cultural differences. Active listening requires restating or paraphrasing back what we heard for verification. “So if I heard you correctly, you want me to send 25 proposals to our top 10 clients so they have them three days in advance of the presentation date.” Confirmation brings clarity to our communication.
Encourage dialogue. Leaning inward to show interest, nodding to affirm agreement, asking a well-thought-out question or saying, “Mmm, wow, I see,” tells others you’re genuinely concerned and engaged in the conversation. “Tell me more” gets others to open up, feel comfortable and share at a heart-to-heart level, which increases connection, decreases conflict and makes someone feel like they’re the only person on the planet.