One of the most important skills you can have if you want to achieve greatness is… positive listening.
Listening doesn’t just involve waiting for your turn to speak. It involves really hearing, seeing and experiencing the messages that the sender is trying to convey to you. Often times what is spoken is not what is said. So, sharpening your listening skills is something that will help you not just in your personal life, but in business as well.
The best communicators are the best listeners.
Have you ever been listened to by someone who made you feel like no one else existed in the world but you and your words? This was someone who was an active listener. Conversely, have you ever talked to someone who was looking around the room, checking their phone, interrupting your thoughts, not really “getting” what you were saying? This is someone who was not listening. It doesn’t mean that they don’t care about you or what you are saying (although you probably felt this way), it just means that they have really poor listening skills.
Communication is not just about the words that are spoken. When you factor in the 95% of non-verbal cues that take place in a conversation, if you aren’t actively listening, you are missing out on a LOT of really meaningful connections! These meaningful interactions can take place in person, on the phone and even on social media. It doesn’t matter what medium you are using to communicate, active listening is the same across the board. It is about being fully present to receive messages from others so that a true connection can be made.
Active listening requires the choice to tune out all distractions and focus on receiving 100% of the information that is being delivered to you. The choice to focus with all of your attention on what your child, spouse, business partner, team member, banker or lawyer is telling you is a decision to show respect not just to whoever is speaking but to yourself.
Another aspect of active listening is what I call “positive listening” which means focusing on the positive messages that are being delivered to you. If you make a choice to not only actively listen to anyone who engages with you, but to remain focused on the positives in each conversation, you will always focus on the solution to any challenge and you will achieve greater results.
What do you do when you choose to participate in positive listening and someone throws negative words and emotions at you? Listen for the needs that are not being met, ask questions to understand how the person is feeling and seek a solution. If the person is stuck in a negative mindset, accept that this is where they are and just listen.
There may not always be a positive solution or answer, but there is always the ability to be a positive listener.
The reality of today’s environment is that most of us are so busy multi-tasking our way through the day that we simply have forgotten that we need to be 100% present in our communications. What would happen if we made a shift toward positive listening? You guessed it… we would be one step closer to playing our Social A-Game!
Each conversation has a purpose. But, when you have a conversation, are you aware of the goal? Sometimes the purpose is to tell a story and share an experience. Sometimes the purpose is to connect or feel validation. Sometimes a conversation is geared towards getting someone to do something for us. Whatever the case may be, if you want to be an active listener, you will not know what the purpose of the conversation is or what goal needs to be met unless you are tuned in. If you are not tuned in, there are bound to be miscommunications and misunderstandings.
If you want to sharpen your active listening skills, start by putting a rubber band around your wrist and wearing it throughout the day. Every time that you begin conversation, snap the rubber band against your wrist to signify the beginning of active listening. From the moment that you snap that rubber band, focus on the words that are being spoken, the feelings that are being conveyed and the desired outcome of the interaction. Forget about answering the phone, checking what time it is, responding to texts or emails… just LISTEN.