Not truly listening to others and ineffective communication often lead to dysfunctional businesses, disgruntled team members, unsatisfied clients, failed marriages, disassociation with loved ones, frustration and anger, to name only a few. In fact, ineffective communication constitutes the largest obstacle to any successful relationship, and it all begins with listening.
Here are some important questions to consider. 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?
The truth is, we all want to be heard
Simply look at your own 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 and cause the most pain, suffering, dissatisfaction and are the least successful, you don’t feel heard and communication is so limited in its effectiveness the relationship suffers as a result.
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 is a primary cause of dysfunction.
There are several sabotaging behaviors, or blockers, that limit our listening abilities. These include:
Rehearsing — Your attention is focused on preparing what you’ll say next.
Derailing — You derail the train of conversation by changing the topic or making jokes as you become bored or uncomfortable.
dvising — You believe you have the answer to the other person’s situation and offer advice rather than truly listening.
Judging — You prejudge the person with whom you’re communicating and use negative labels to do so.
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 the information, saying things or acting in ways so as to not be wrong.
Sparring — You actually look for things over which to disagree.
Dreaming or drifting — Your attention is diverted to 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.
Identifying — You use the stories of others as a reference point to tell your own at the expense of theirs.
Comparing — It’s hard to listen because you’re assessing who’s more intelligent, confident and emotionally healthy or who’s worked harder.
Mind reading — Mind readers don’t pay much attention to what people actually say. In fact, they often distrust it. If you make assumptions about how people react to you, then 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 always 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.
Listening effectively to others can be 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. The ill effects of your ineffective listening are all but eliminated, and interactions become more successful and pleasant as you stop talking or thinking and begin truly listening to others.
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 want to increase the effectiveness of your team, I encourage you to begin with the foundational competency of listening.