Poor communication presents the largest obstacle to any successful relationship, and it all begins with listening. Not truly listening to others and ineffective communication are often at the heart of dysfunctional businesses, disgruntled team members, unsatisfied clients, failed marriages, disassociation with loved ones, frustration and anger, to name only a few.
Stephen Covey — the businessman, educator and author — put it this way: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply.”
Yet, the truth remains: We all want to be heard and understood.
Consider your life and your relationships to better understand the importance of the communication process. In those relationships you find most rewarding and successful, chances are you feel heard and understood, and communication is effective more often than not. In those relationships you find least rewarding and successful, it’s likely you don’t feel heard, and communication remains limited at most.
Here are some important questions to ask yourself: Do you like it when others truly listen to you? Do you feel respected, acknowledged and valued when others really listen to what you’re saying? Do you have greater rapport and trust with those who actually listen to you? In other words, do you like it when others care enough to remain present with you in their listening? Are you listening to others the way you want them to listen to you? If not, why not?
Whether in life or business, successful relationships depend on the ability of those involved to effectively communicate. In reality, most of us aren’t taught how to communicate with the intention of understanding, building relationships and creating solutions. In business, not listening effectively to others causes dysfunction.
There are several sabotaging behaviors, or blockers, that limit our listening abilities:
Rehearsing — Your attention is focused on preparing what you’ll say next.
Judging — You prejudge the person with whom you’re communicating and use negative labels to do so.
Multitasking – You fail to remain present and pay attention to the person talking as you split your time and attention between two or more things.
Advising — You believe you have the answer to the other person’s problem and offer advice rather than truly listen.
Placating — You agree with everything the other person says in an effort to get along or be liked or because you aren’t truly listening.
Sparring — You look for things over which to disagree.
Dreaming or drifting — Your attention is on anything but the conversation, like a vacation you want to take, things you need to get done or an unresolved issue in your life.
Derailing — You derail the train of conversation with sudden changes to the topic or make jokes as you become bored or uncomfortable.
Identifying — You use the stories of others as a reference point to tell your own at the expense of theirs.
Being right — Your mind is focused on arranging the information, saying things and acting in ways so as to not be wrong.
Which of these listening blocks do you engage? All of them? Some of them? Not Sure?
Participants in my communication trainings learn just how much they unknowingly sabotage their professional and personal relationships by not listening. Reversing this and becoming someone who listens with integrity — listening to others the way you would want them to listen to you — is simple once you’re taught how.
Developing the powerful habit of truly listening is the first step in becoming an effective communicator and building more successful professional and personal relationships. If you want to build a successful business or increase the effectiveness of your team, I encourage you to begin with the foundational competency of listening.
Listening effectively to others is often the most fundamental and powerful communication tool of all. The first step to improvement is to gain a good understanding of what you can do or stop doing to get better. From there, the ill effects of your ineffective listening are all but eliminated. Interactions become more successful and pleasant as you learn to stop talking or thinking and develop the habit of truly listening to others.