By Jillian Broaddus and Chuck Cusumano
Quick question: Do you think you’re a good listener?
Second question: Do you consistently find yourself answering emails, texting a friend, and “listening” to a Zoom call – all at the same time?
If you’re like the majority of people, you probably answered with a resounding “Yes!” to our initial question. In fact, Accenture reports that a whopping 96% of global professionals deem themselves “good listeners.” Nearly everybody!
However, that exact same Accenture survey – which dealt with 3,600 respondents across 30 countries – also reported some other (somewhat confounding) findings. Namely, 98% of professionals report multi-tasking at work, with 4 in 5 saying they do so on conference calls. Nearly two-thirds report using call time to respond to emails, and one-third admit to using it to check social media, read online articles, and catch up on personal to-do’s.
Active listening skills have self-admittedly declined as more employees are working from home, engaging over teleconferencing, and neglecting the need for face-to-face soft skills. In fact, two-thirds of people say listening at work has become “more difficult” as their work has “turned more toward the digital.” Current research shows that the average person only retains about half of what others tell them – meaning that the vast majority of people are wildly overestimating their listening skills!
However, research also shows that listening is perhaps the most important skill to have in the workplace if you want to advance your career. Fast Company reports that how well and frequently you listen to others is a better predictor of your leadership potential than your actual intelligence or personality.
So, how can you become as good of a listener as you can be – or that you already think you are?! We’ve written about listening before (see here and here for more advice), but here are our three new tips – our “Three E’s” – for how to become a better listener:
Eliminate Distractions – If you know you’re prone to check your phone while on a team video conference, remove your phone from the equation! If you know your television at home will distract you from the conversation you need to be having with your spouse, turn it off. You can set up your situation to aid you in your quest to enhance your listening, so put your environment on your side!
Empathy Wins – Good listeners are empathetic – period. While you may find it easier to put yourself in a loved one’s shoes, empathy may wane when it comes to the workplace. Practice displaying kindness, compassion, and understanding in order to become an empathetic listener.
Embrace Silence – One of the biggest hinders to being a good listener is our innate, impulsive want to interrupt. Often, interruptions aren’t meant to be rude – we simply have a word of agreement, a story to offer, or a piece of advice that just can’t wait. Make it a practice to allow 1-2 seconds of silence in a conversation between what the other person is telling you and what you plan to respond.
Remember, you are the listener! Even when you have something to say, focus on allowing the other person to have their time to share, and you can add to or have another conversation later. It does not have to be 50/50. Let them have their moment!
If you need any further advice on enhancing the listening skills of yourself or your team, please reach out to us at email@example.com!