The average person spends more time listening than any other communication activity: 45% - 55% of our waking time. And becoming a better listener creates, in turn, a receptive ear for our own sound waves.
Julia T. Wood, communication theorist and author/editor of 24 books, coaches better listening through mindfulness: paying close attention to a person’s verbal and visual cues, and effectively understanding where they’re “coming from.”
First, focus fully on the other person (employee, colleague, etc.). Second, respond with feedback, letting them know you understand what they’re saying and how they feel about it. This dynamic promotes more complete communication. When people are assured they’re being heard and understood, they are more receptive to listening to you.
What are the barriers to effective listening?
Some may be simply situational—information overload, noisy environments, or information that’s complex and difficult to follow. Others may be internal—we may be preoccupied with a concern, make instant assumptions based on prior knowledge, or we allow some words to trigger a strong emotional response.
How to avoid obstacles to listening.
People who study effective listening can learn how to avoid these obstacles. For a great TEDx talk by William Ury, co-founder of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, listen to his stories of candid conversations with presidents and business leaders.
An essential take-away.
Whether it’s face-to-face, or online, these same principles apply. So in today’s crowded and competing chorus of voices, the important take-away is to identify when critical listening is valuable in order to gauge information and gain understanding, to build connections, and to, in turn, be heard yourself.
Being mindful of the situation helps you know when to turn up your listening skills.