“This is Dr. Frasier Crane. I’m listening.” Isn’t this the sort of undivided attention we all desire from our colleagues? The secret to success for this level of communication comes in the form of an equation: AL + AQ + PF = I.
The “AL” stands for Actively Listening, not to be confused with hearing. Hearing is the action of registering sound with your ears, while listening is inferring meaning and content with your mind. Plenty of us can hear well, but often, we are simply not listening.
You can equip yourself with five tools to make listening more active—which may or may not bring enjoyment, but will always bring value. First of all, be present. When you speak to someone and they are preoccupied or looking “through” you, they are only hearing you. Simply stop talking and wait, which will bring that person back into listening mode.
Good listeners listen with their eyes. If you are speaking to someone who is not only looking “through” you, but scarcely making eye contact, you are wasting your breath. Use the cues of the person to Ask Questions—the “AQ” of our equation. You can honor that person, even if it appears they are dishonoring you, by asking questions which offer to continue the conversation later under different circumstances.
Good listeners have a front-facing posture. When someone comes into your office to speak with you and you are turned to the side, typing and staring at your monitor, that person is not admiring your ability to multitask. Chances are, they are thinking less positive thoughts as you tell them to “go ahead” without even looking at them. Rather than simply turning your head to feign presence, turn your entire body.
Your acknowledgement of their words is the fourth element of Actively Listening. According to Yahoo! Answers, “Listening is the acknowledgement of the divine oneness we all share in, despite the multitude of beliefs that divide us.” Wow. That’s heavy, over the top and out of context for our purposes. A little more palatable is Dictionary.com’s definition: “recognize the existence, truth or fact of; to show or express recognition or realization of.” When acknowledging, pay attention to not over-acknowledging, rather than acknowledging too infrequently.
A fifth tool, which plays off acknowledgement, is paraphrasing—a restatement or reworking that provides clarity. It creates dialogue and positions you to Ask Questions. If your interpretation of a conversation is different than the other person’s, you will probably have that conversation again with more emotion than either of you desire. So go ahead, Ask Questions—just be sure you employ Actively Listening in your response!
When you Ask Questions, you will be in an educated position to Provide Feedback (PF), if needed. Feedback is not always warranted or desired by the other person, but if it is, you will dispense the right feedback thanks to your ability to Actively Listen and Ask Questions. Timing is the only difference between garden salad and garbage, so consider delaying your feedback until a later time. This will demonstrate true listening, and that adequate thought went into your eventual feedback. Simply asking the question, “May I provide feedback?” will tell you a lot about whether that feedback will be welcomed simply by “listening” with your eyes as you gauge the other person’s body language.
Increasingly, people are frustrated by those who spend their brainpower forming a response or rebuttal to one’s points rather than listening, and body language is often cited as the giveaway. Actively working on Actively Listening counteracts that. As for asking questions, simply jot down key words of the question you want to ask, and yes, you can do it while the person is speaking. This abbreviated form of note taking, when combined with the five active listening points, is completely acceptable.
So if AL + AQ + PF are working properly, what is I? Influence. Effective leaders possess Influence, and that is what the women featured in this issue of iBi wield. Congratulations, and thank you to each for bettering our community. iBi