As we slowly begin to emerge from this awful pandemic, I hear endless chatter around about engaging in a meaningful way with customers, with friends, with family. After months of restricted contact many of us have become somewhat reclusive. There is a danger that getting back into ‘communication’ might not be as easy as we think or hope.
In my work I’ve noticed that listening seems to have taken a back seat. We all have stories to share when we do meet with people, yet I’ve observed our listening skills seems to have diminished.
I was recently at an event and realised that people were definitely communicating but few were listening to what was being said. Some were even interrupting others to get their thought/point of view across. As I watched I was disturbed to see the impact this was having on some of those present. Clearly, they didn’t feel heard and I saw them almost physically retreat into themselves.
Above all else I’ve always believed that a communication exchange requires both parties to be present. No roving eyes, not jumping in to elaborate on a conversation, just politely and genuinely listening.
As a behavioural analyst I know people are different and therefore so are their communication approaches. But what I’m seeing is something different. I would go so far as to say that empathetic listening has been lost or at least forgotten. People have overlooked the importance of the natural pause in a conversation that ‘invites’ a response from the other party.
Perhaps this is just a short-term issue. Maybe we are all so pleased to be out of lockdown that we have to catch up and we’ve gone a little stir crazy.
But it’s time to reflect on our own behaviour. Have we closed down other contributions to a conversation? Are we really listening or are we simply waiting to jump in with our own story?
I recall an incident many years ago when at church. Our worship leader was quite famous and after the service was often surrounded by many wanting to talk to her. On this particular occasion I saw her with another women and was drawn to how she did not take her eyes of the person speaking to her, nothing was distracting her from the person she was speaking to. This was listening; real empathetic, I care for you and what you are saying, listening. It was certainly a life lesson for me.
We are all accountable for ensuring that conversations are meaningful, otherwise, why have them! I think the art of listening has been damaged over the past few months. I for one am going to take a good hard look at my listening skills.
Here are just a few thoughts to improve our listening skills:
- Always make sure people feel heard and understood. Your response (if you’ve been listening) will confirm this.
- Maintain eye contact – not in a creepy way – just don’t allow yourself to be distracted by things going on around you.
- Mentally listen to the words being spoken. This ensures you’re not concentrating on your response/story when you get a chance to jump in.
- Remember, it’s their story, their experience so don’t try to ‘top it’ with something that happened to you. (we’ve all done it).
Sorry if this sounds a bit heavy – it’s not my intention. I just think we have to emerge back into society from lockdown changed for the better by the experience. Listening to each other seems like a good place to start.
Maybe you’ve never stopped to consider your communication style. Why not check it out now – FREE – on me. https://communicationdna.com/free-trial/
Carol Pocklington is a Human Performance Accelerator. She has worked with Hugh Massie since 2001 as the DNA Behavior concept was conceived. She works with people and businesses worldwide. Her real-world application of behavioural insights, gives her the capability to serve as a business strategist, coach, mentor, and trainer. She is also a prolific blogger, a public speaker and author, specializing in human behavioural insights.