Dec 21, 2010
Listening actively requires proper use of all your senses and the right body posture apart from the obvious use of ears. Henceforth whenever you are listening to another person, observe and train yourself on the following and become an effective listener. As you learn effective listening, you will be able to demonstrate better empathy. Empathy is the most important competence for an effective leader
1. Look for visual cues
Let us first see how to listen with your eyes. It is said that the eyes speak the heart out and words speak the mind out. So it makes sense to keep eye contact and see what the speaker's eyes are conveying. Constantly corraborate that input to the spoken words. Body language is another important thing to observe. Posture, gestures are all important. The visual cues convey more emotional communication than spoken words which could be guarded and measured before they leave the speaker's mouth.
2. Watch how the speaker is breathing and get into that rythm
Engaging your nose in the listening process is simple. By getting into the same rhythm of breathing with the speaker as much as possible, you set an invisible trigger in the mind of the speaker. You make that person more at ease with you. Not so easy to believe. It does seems to work if you get successful at doing this. The breathing pattern you sense could be typically normal, deep and relaxed or rapid and shallow. Each type provides you valuable insights to the mental state of the speaker at that given moment. You can use the input to make the speaker relax first. Don't make this rhythm effect look so obvious. Otherwise the speaker may think that he or she is being mimicked.
Engaging the mouth in the listening process is simpler. You use your mouth to paraphrase. When you paraphrase, you must articulate what you heard in your own words. Never repeat what the speaker said. That might be construed as mimicking. When you sense strong emotions through any of the channels of listening, recognize those emotions using your words (e.g., "I see you are anxious.. Is that because.... ). Make short statements when you speak. Never hog the channel. It makes perfect sense to give the speaker significantly more time in the whole process. It also makes sense to end your paraphrasing with an open question that will lead the speaker to speak further.
4. Use your body for the appropriate listening posture
Leaning gently forward towards the speaker makes the speaker feel that you are attentive. However, this is not the only gesture that is deployable in all contexts. Wearing the appropriate emotion on your face is helpful. Remember that it is not always a smile. A smile is inappropriate when listening in certain contexts (e.g., if you are talking to someone who is depressed or emotionally negatively charged, a grin on your face will be a killer). You may have to appear easy in some contexts and strict in others.
Before doing all this you must shut the parts of your brain that judges and criticizes. They hugely cripple your listening ability. Next time, don't just listen with your ear! An effective (active) listener is any day a better leader. Listening with all your senses needs investment of effort and constant practice.