Listening is a skill. It’s an important skill to have in life from everyday social interactions to today’s modern workplace settings that encourage collaboration and effective communication. A critical toolset of emotional intelligence, having the ability to actively listen to management, peers, and people you are managing, is fundamental to building emotional intelligence and a strong connection with others.
Listening to what people are communicating to understand their experiences helps the listener develop compassion and empathy, both of which are critical factors in developing high levels of emotional intelligence.[i] For managers, this is a relevant characteristic among today’s most successful leaders.
Recognizing the different levels of listening is the first step to listening self-awareness. A recent Training Industry, Inc. article about emotional intelligence and the art of connecting, reveals three levels of listening when it comes to management.[ii]
- Level 1 Listening – This kind of listening is most often done when the person (in this case a manager) is not concentrating on the conversation, but rather thinking about something else. As a result, active listening turns into the individual quickly assessing the conversation to pinpoint the issue and to add something constructive to the conversation. This poses a problem because the manager is subconsciously not listening, but rather looking to add to the conversation.
- Level 2 Listening – We’ve all been here before. This form of “listening” is when multi-tasking is involved (we are all guilty of this one) and the person is not listening at all. You may be focused on the person, but you are only hearing parts of the conversation and may find yourself having to ask a lot of questions to fill in the missing information.
- Level 3 Listening – This type of listening is where we all want to be when possible. Fully engaged (looking in people’s eyes), focused, and completely attentive to the conversation. Our body language and the mind say we are paying attention. The person is present, connected, and actively listening
With a better understanding of the different categories of listening, how does one become a better listener? Here are three helpful tips to consider[iii]:
- Look People in the Eye – Step away from your phone or laptop for a moment and connect with the person sitting across from you.
- Create Space in Your Day – Give yourself plenty of time for reflection during the day so when you are talking to someone, you can give them your full attention. Having a calendar that is not booked every moment of the day helps create this space needed.
- Ask More Questions – After listening, ask a question to clarify what they really need because usually, it’s just validation that their thinking is on the right track.
There is a lot to learn when one listens to someone else share their thoughts and experiences. Listening has the power to understand the most complex communications and apply a deep understanding of a situation, to communicate in the most effective way possible. Learning to be a better listener is a leadership quality that is possible with mindfulness and practice. Be present for others and practice your emotional intelligence.
“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 president and CEO, Chrysler Corporation