Welcome to the Being Happy@Work blog series!
I'm Laura Kieley and I'm the guest blogger for this month (thank you, Ina and team!). Communications and marketing are my wheelhouse, so I guess it's no surprise I'm focused on communications skills when I think of what makes me happy at work. In particular, let’s talk about the power of listening.
All of us can claim we listen to our colleagues and/or clients at work. But are we REALLY listening? Are we consistently present in our interactions with them?
I’d like to share a story. Some years ago, about three weeks into a contract as a consultant to a large law firm, my client dropped by my desk and she was beaming.
“I’m getting great feedback about you from the Business Development team,” she said. “Everyone in the group – everyone – tells me you really listen.”
Listening? I didn’t expect that. I couldn’t believe my ability to listen stood out. A big part of the project was supporting the Business Development team. I’d met with everyone individually and in those meetings, I asked questions, stayed in the moment and gave my undivided attention. It got noticed. It’s a lesson I have carried through my career.
It’s been said that people only remember between 25% and 50% of what’s said to them.
Research has indicated that the average person hears between 20,000 and 30,000 words every day. That’s a lot of words to take in!
What’s called “active listening” sounds easy, but it can be hard to do. It’s been defined as “the ability to focus completely on a speaker, understand their message, comprehend the information and respond thoughtfully.” The good news is that it’s a skill you can develop with practice.
I liked this article, “Active Listening: The Greatest Skill of All” by Charley Swords for its simple but important tips:
Always face the speaker and maintain eye contact.
Be attentive in a relaxed way.
Keep an open mind. Seek to understand what’s really being said.
Don’t interrupt and don’t make assumptions about what the other person is saying.
Ask clarifying questions to ensure your understanding.
Give the speaker acknowledgement through your conversation. You can do this by repeating back what’s been said.
Pay attention to the speaker’s body language. (That sometimes conveys more than words!)
I also really liked this video, The Art of Listening with Simon Sinek. He differentiates between the act and the art of listening. He also gives an example of what he calls “extreme listening.”
Listening builds trust and makes you more effective. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do at work, and in our lives? Try active listening in your next meeting and see what happens. When you make it a habit, chances are that you’ll not only perform better at work, but you’ll also understand your colleagues on a deeper level. As you listen more closely, you may well find that people listen to you better as well. Maybe active listening can be contagious – in a good way.
Simon Sinek also says to replace judgement with curiosity. As many of us head back to offices, we’ll need to restore the pre-Covid, in-person relationships we had, and build new ones with new colleagues. Consider asking questions without judgement and approaching new colleagues with curiosity.
We owe it to ourselves and each other not to lose sight of the fact that active listening is part of being present at work. So the next time you’re on a Zoom call, resist the urge to open your email or scroll on your phone as people are talking. Just listen. Focus on being present in the moment and you may just find yourself happier at work.
And stay tuned for more next month!