Ineffective communication presents the largest obstacle to any successful professional or personal 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. The truth is, we all want to be heard.
Consider your life and relationships to understand the importance of communication. In those relationships you find most rewarding, fulfilling and successful, you feel heard and communication is more effective than not. Conversely, when you consider your relationships that are the most unsettling; cause the most frustration, suffering and dissatisfaction; and are least successful, you don’t feel heard. Communication is so limited in its effectiveness the relationship suffers as a result.
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 be absolutely present with you in their listening?
Successful relationships, whether in business or life, rest firmly on the ability of those involved to effectively communicate. The reality, however, is that most of us aren’t taught how to communicate with the intention of building relationships and creating solutions. In business, not listening effectively to others often leads to dysfunction.
There are several sabotaging behaviors, or blockers, that limit our listening abilities. These include:
Judging — You prejudge the person you’re communicating with and use negative labels to do so.
Advising — You believe you have the answer to the other person’s situation and go into the mode of giving advice rather than truly listening.
Placating — You agree with everything the other person says in an effort to get along, be liked or because you aren’t truly listening.
Being right — Your mind is focused on arranging information, saying things or acting in ways so as to not be wrong.
Sparring — You actually look for things with which to disagree.
Dreaming or drifting — Your attention is on anything other than the conversation, like a vacation you want to take, things you need to get done or an unresolved issue in your life.
Rehearsing — Your attention is focused on preparing what you will say next.
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.
Comparing — You make it hard to listen because you’re assessing who’s more intelligent, more confident and more emotionally healthy or who has worked harder.
Mind reading — You don’t pay attention to what people actually say. You often distrust it. If you make assumptions about how people react to you, you’re probably wrong.
Multitasking — You fail to be present and pay attention to the person talking as you split your time and attention between two or more things.
In which of these listening blocks do you engage? All of them? Some of them? Not sure?
Participants in my communication trainings are astounded to learn first hand 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.
Building the powerful habit of truly listening is the first step in becoming an effective communicator and building successful professional and personal relationships. If you endeavor 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 is to have a good understanding of what you can do or stop doing to get better. From here, the ill effects of your ineffective listening are all but eliminated and interactions become more successful and pleasant as you learn to stop talking or thinking and develop the habit of truly listening to others.