My guess is that we’ve all experienced a case of this before. You’re in a meeting with one of your managers or team members and you’re discussing with them a need for change. The meeting appeared to go well with no red flags and you felt accomplished that all was communicated clearly. Later, you hear them talking to their team or another team member about what you said and as they are talking you think, “Did I really say that?” “How did they come up with that interpretation?” “That’s not at all what I said!” Welcome to the world of filters and selective listening. This is something we all do. Sometimes it’s completely harmless.
How about this scenario? – Your spouse or your child is talking and your mind is focused somewhere else, maybe it’s still wrapped up in business from the day, so you nod and grunt as they talk until they stop. Then comes, “Well, what do you think?” Now, you freeze! You haven’t heard a word they’ve said, but not giving an answer is out of the question. Here’s my go-to response – “Honey, I think you are right”. (The prior example was all fictional and never really occurred.) ; )
In business, this is not going to work. When we don’t listen well, or hear through our own filters, it can harm our communication and the ability to get things done. When we choose to hear what, we want, and we don’t confirm what is said, we only set ourselves up for problems. There’s a simple strategy to solving this problem and it’s called “Active Listening”. If you learn to practice this technique I assure you that miscommunication involving yourself will drop to nearly nothing. Here is how it works. If you follow these few points it will make a major difference:
- Acknowledge the person speaking. Make good eye contact. Nod your head when you’re in agreement. Your non-verbal cues should be clear as to what you are hearing, giving no mixed messages.
- Practice reflective listening – Phrases like “What I am hearing is” or “Sounds like you are saying” are a couple of ways to do this.
- If any confusion still exists please clarify and ask questions. “What do you mean when you say?” or “Is this what you mean?”
- Assuming is your enemy and I know we’ve, all heard what to A-S-S-U-M-E means. Don’t forget it.
So, I say give it a shot. These are points that I try to coach to whenever possible to make sure communication is improved and there are not problems created by simple listening mistakes. It is an easy fix to practice these steps, but it will ensure you are a much better communicator and a great listener. If there is one skill out there that the world can use a lot more of – it’s listening. So, avoid that moment when you look at yourself and say “Did I really say that?”
Wishing you great growth.