In 1982, Dale Bozzio, of the band Missing Persons asked us incessantly if we were listening to her. She wanted to know if we cared about what she was saying; whether we were engaged in what she had to say, and whether her words resonated with us.
Her lyrics ring especially true in today’s world.
Our days are filled with digital distractions. Between our phones and our computers, we’re continually preoccupied by notifications, text messages and emails.
Articles, TED Talks and books talk about the importance of presence and listening, and teach us how to practice effective and active listening, yet, we struggle to be present.
Far too often, our screens take over and divide our attention making it seem as if we’re listening to the person in front of us, when really, we’re much more interested in the shiny object that’s on our screens or the people walking outside of the fishbowl conference room.
It’s frustrating and discouraging for the person on the other side of the conversation trying to make a point and be heard. The disconnect leaves an emptiness in the dialog and a failure to accomplish the intention of having a discussion surrounding an important topic or event.
Listen & Engage
People generally talk about the art of conversation and how it’s lost in today’s world. However, I think it goes deeper than that.
Every good conversation starts with good listening. Anonymous
While we’re competing with the digital conversations that happen persistently throughout the day, we’re disengaged from the art of active listening – the art that makes us self-aware of our responses during a discussion with someone in the same room and our level of engagement within that conversation.
The art of active listening demonstrates presence on a large scale. It shows emotion, it provides feedback, and it defers any judgment you may have until you fully understand what the speaker is saying. You give your undivided presence to allow them to speak uninterrupted and you genuinely care about what they are saying. You engage by asking questions to further learn about their perspective for having the conversation and you summarize their statements throughout the conversation.
Become a Better Communicator
Developing the technics of an active listener takes purpose and concentrations. Self-awareness of the need to develop as a better communicator leads to the development of these techniques.
Give Your Undivided Attention
Put your phone down, close your laptop and make eye contact with the speaker. Show that you are truly engaged and paying attention. Have the conversation in a neutral location that is free of the division of a desk or table.
Ask questions to learn about the other person and their drive to have the conversation with you. Demonstrate your genuine interest in them and learn about their perspective. Ask clarifying questions to gain a deeper understanding of the conversation
Understand what is being said and reflect on the conversation as a whole. Make a point to summarize the speaker’s points and provide honest and appropriate feedback respectfully.
Make your superpower that of a true listener. As a leader, you’ll be trusted, as a colleague, respected. Be that person who gives their attention generously and is present in the moment and the conversation.