How to Listen

Listen to understand, rather than listening to respond. 

Are you waiting for a gap in the conversation so you can jump in with your point? Or are you hearing and processing what your speaker is saying to you? One courageous team I worked in was filled with extroverts and one introvert. During team meetings, our introvert could never get a word in! And when he did speak, if he paused for a moment, someone else leapt in with their next point. We learned how to include the introvert effectively. He ended up calling out our bad behaviour when we jumped in. He would say “I haven’t finished yet”, and pause. He always received an apology, and we would wait for him to resume. There were no hard feelings and conversation continued to flow.

When you ask a question, pause attentively to listen to the answer.

A few years ago, I had a boss who used to ask “How are you?” But, before I could answer, she’d walk away! Have you ever had an experience like that? It got to the stage where I didn’t even bother responding when she asked. My interpretation: logically, she knew that she should be asking about my welfare, but in reality, she didn’t care. The worst example of this was when I overheard one colleague, Fred, asking another, John, how he was. John started to tell Fred about his scary health issue, which included blood in his urine. Fred replied, smiling, “That’s nice”. Clearly, Fred’s thoughts were elsewhere. This exchange happened over a decade ago, and I still recall this as an example of thoughtless listening.