Active listening is especially helpful in times of conflict. Typically in those times both parties are seeking to win the argument and are often paying even less attention to understanding what the other is saying. With the increased emotional context at hand, conflicts can quickly spiral out of control and relationships and resolution suffer.
Three Steps to Active Listening:
1. Listen for Accuracy:How many times have you been “listening” when really you’ve just been waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can start and assert your opinion, experience, feeling or rebuttal? The first step of real listening is to focus on the speaker and to reflect back and summarize the content of what you’ve heard.. “It sounds like what you said is that you want the contract to go through or you won’t work on the project? Is that correct?" Summarize and repeat the content just the way they said it. You don’t have to agree or respond at this point, just repeat for accuracy. Reflection is the first step to understanding.
2. Listen for Empathy:The second step is to listen for the emotions behind the words. Listening for resonance comes before listening for resolution. In otherwords, you don’t have to agree with the emotional context of the message or provide your view just yet. Here you are validating the individual’s feelings and trying to understand the situation from their perspective. You merely need to understand what the emotion is and empathize with the sender. Tune in to what’s underneath the message by watching body language, tonality and sentiment. If its doubt, fear, anxiety, confusion, joy or any of the many other feelings, name and validate it.. “It sounds like you’re frustrated with the process and I can understand why.” Empathy makes the sender feel understood and valued. This is one of the greatest gifts in a relationship.
3. Listening for Mutual Creativity & Relationship:After working through steps one and two, a new alliance should be forged between the two parties. This deep listening can really help break through barriers to spark creativity and collaboration. Building a sense of trust and openness is accomplished through steps one and two.
There are two questions to ask yourself as you are listening: What does this person want? How can I help this person get what he or she wants? By understanding the needs of the other, you can now better judge what actions will have a positive or negative impact and begin dialoguing about the path forward. It is here where the two parties start to brainstorm ideas and solutions.
Benefits of Active Listening
There are many benefits to active listening. Listenting attentively to others builds relationship and positive outcomes. It also avoids misunderanding as you seek to truly understand another. It creates an air of openness and trust which breeds further sharing and understanding. It can help resolve conflict and find mutually acceptable solutions quicker and with less strain on the team. And it keeps both parties positive and healthy in their interactions with themselves and each other. (The oppositive of this is unhealthy communication, blaming, lashing out and shutting down – all which stifle creativity and momentum forward).
Listening in total support of another is the greatest gift a leader can give.
"I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen. Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions." Lee Iacocca, Former CEO Chrysler Corporation
1. What techniques do you need to work on to practice active listening?
2. What relationship is suffering now as a result of your inability to listen? What do you need to do to repair this relationship?
3. Do you find that you patronize or preach to others?
4. Do you find you like to dominate the conversation by quickly jumping in with your view point? Cutting off others? Telling others they are wrong in their thinking?
5. What are you active listening strengths? Summarizing, encouraging, validating, reflecting, emotional labeling, intuitive listening? What are your weaknesses?
6. Do you evaluate the conversation by judging or quickly agreeing or disagreeing with the message?
7. Do you quickly go into advisor mode – giving counsel, advice or trying to solve the problem?
8. What can you do this week and with whom to practice actively listening?