Listening is one of the five senses which is otherwise known as hearing. In order to listen to someone effectively, people must be willing to understand and accept everything that is involved in the listening process. Listening is an activity that requires focus and attention. When people are distracted, they are not listening to others nor are they hearing them.
Simply put, when they are listening to another person attentively, they are building trust and respect, and when they are not giving them their full attention, they are losing credibility as a leader. Being fully present as a leader when someone is speaking is the foundation of a good discussion.
Active listening is important when another person is speaking. It is critical that people make a conscious effort to understand everything that they are listening towhee others are speaking. Active listening is characterized by verbal and non-verbal communication skills. As an active listener, people must demonstrate their abilities to remain engaged with the speaker by asking clarifying questions, acknowledging the speaker with the occasional okay and paraphrasing what they just heard them say. Some of the non-verbal skills that will show active listening are direct eye contact, an open posture and nods.
Comprehensive listening is focused on the content of what is being said. Success depends on how well people share a common vocabulary, which is usually developed over time while they are in the same organization. Every industry and company has a unique jargon and set of acronyms. Being a proficient comprehensive listener requires people to be able to concentrate, focus and remember what is said for recall at a later time. This type of listening may be supported by note taking in order to retain some of the key points for reference at a later time.
Empathetic listening involves having some understanding or mastery of the emotions involved in a conversation. Being aware of feelings will support people in being more empathetic listeners. By putting themselves in another person’s shoes, they are showing them that they can be trusted. When people trust and respect their leaders, they are more likely to share information with them. This information may be useful to the well being of the organization. It is important to accept that emotions may be an inherent part of a conversation.
Listening is an important part of any leadership role and is not to be taken for granted. To be a proficient or skilled listener, leaders must the focus and attention on the traits and behaviors needed to demonstrate listening with others. It is not something that can be left up to chance with the expectation that the results will always be positive and productive.
It is like anything in life, to get better at it or even excel at it, people must find ways that work best for them that give them the opportunity to find what works best when learning about it. The practice of showing proficient listening traits and behaviors to others are what will make or break most leaders as listeners.