Memorable leaders know when to speak and know when to listen. My final blog in this series builds on socratic questioning which is a distinctive way of helping people find their own solutions to problems. The ability to listen and allow space for someone to talk is an essential part of leadership capabilities.
Three major roadblocks can drive significant and long lasting wedges between people. This can manifest over time into larger team or organisational issues. These include:
Judging by criticising, name-calling and diagnosing
Sending solutions by threatening,moralising or inappropriate questioning
Avoiding others concerns with diverting the conversation, logical argument or reassurance particularly when someone’s self worth is fragile.
What is real listening about? Listening is far more than merely hearing. It is about…
Authenticity by being genuine and joining with the conversation. In other words listen with real interest.
Being empathic meaning joining with the other person so that there is a feeling of togetherness. Showing them you really understand by validating their thoughts and feelings.
Respecting the person’s competence which can be defined as refraining from judgement about the other person and valuing that person regardless of strengths and weaknesses. Also, appreciating that they have the capacity to resolve their own issues.
To communicate you are a genuine listener:
Have open posture, with eye contact, verbally indicate that you are listening and be relaxed.
Tune into their world:
How does the person present, are they anxious, how are they responding to you? What is their level of self awareness? How open are they in telling you about the issue, are they resistant or defensive? What is going on non-verbally with them. Is what they are saying congruent with how they present?
To start listening ask Open questions:
Would like to tell me more about that?
What was it that gave you that impression?
How did that make you feel?
How did you react to that?
If you could think of a reason, what would that be?
To continue listening ask clarifying questions:
What did you mean when you said…? I’m a little confused.
I wonder… How does that relate to what you said about…?
Where would you like to begin?
To re-affirm you're listening:
Utilise minimal responses such as a nod of your head, a small expression such as ‘yes’ or ‘ok’; or response such as “I understand’ or ‘I hear what you say’.
Match their non-verbal behaviours such as tone of voice, body language, speed of breathing, make appropriate eye contact or matching their silences.
To reinforce to the person you are listening:
Paraphrase the important content details of what has been said.
Tell the person briefly and in your own words the most important thing that has been said.
Try to capture the essential meanings of what the person has said and reflect this back to them.
Summarise what has been said over a number of statements, drawing together the main points.
Listening takes time, emotional space and concerted effort. The skilful use of these tools at the appropriate times will help significantly build strong, robust and long lasting working relationships. Great leaders can do this effectively!
If you have any thoughts or experiences please share them with me. I can then post these (maintaining confidentiality) on a future blog to start a conversation about the topic. This may start a valuable conversation amongst like minded people to help all of us do things better. firstname.lastname@example.org