Civility #3: Listen Up

Civility #3: Listen Up

Civility Fundamental #3

‘Listening (the first competence of leadership) is not a skill; it is a discipline. All you have to do is keep your mouth shut. – Peter Drucker

To truly listen to another person means you are focused on their words, body language, the tone of voice, and you are engaged in their point of view, story, or experience. It means you don’t formulate your response to while they speak because that undermines your ability to understand their view of the world.

“Why do I need to listen and understand the perspective of a direct report at work, it’s not like they are my friend?’ is a question a few managers have asked me. Listening is one side of a relationship and builds trust with the other person, and as we learned in civility fundamental two, trust is necessary for a positive relationship. If you aren’t ready to acknowledge that it feels good to have colleagues and subordinates who trust and enjoy interacting with you remember that positive relationships lead to higher results and that can lead to rewards for you and your team.

‘Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.’ – Stephen R. Covey

A conversation is a shared experience, and when both parties are committed to listening to understand then there is no need to rush your reply – you will get a chance to talk. Also, keep in mind that a conversation might be 2 minutes long or about the latest movie – listening to what someone did on the weekend or how they nailed their presentation is simple and effective in building a relationship.

Where to start with listening to understand?

  • Remove distractions – this includes your phone! Turn it off or put it on silent and move it out of sight – put it in a drawer or your pocket. Studies show that phones diminish our sense of connection with each other.
  • Eye contact and your facial expressions need to align with the topic at hand and the emotion of the speaker. If you hear about a sad story, then a giant grin will be out of place, if the story is hilarious – smile and laugh all the way to your eyes. Research shows that people fake smile about half the time and most of us are good at recognizing an imposter smile.
  • Paraphrase what you heard when the person speaking is finished their statement. Don’t embellish with your opinion or story – confirm your understanding. This shows that you have been paying attention and that you care about understanding.
  • If you have a habit of controlling conversations – get better asking open-ended questions. An open-ended question allows for a more detailed answer and can lead to other topics of discussion and additional questions.
  • Get used to watching for non-verbal behaviour – what a person doesn’t say often can provide more context – this also means waiting through a pause.
  • Pay attention to what topics lead you to interrupt. Maybe you can’t help but interrupt when politics or hockey or movies or performance management comes up; try. Sit on your hands, count to ten or twenty and remember that you are listening to build relationships, and know that you will get a turn to speak.

Let me know how your new listening skills develop and the positive results you see with your colleagues.

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