Listen Up! Start Listening
Today’s blog post is written by Kaitria Resetar, Business Affairs & HR Coordinator, Patron Technology.
Listening is an absolutely essential part of effective communication. It is also one of the hardest parts of the whole process. We all want to talk and have our voices heard, but it’s important to be open and listen to the other side of the conversation. We’ve all been there, “listening” to a friend’s woes while also looking at our phones, or people passing by, and then subsequently miss everything our friend has said. So we just smile, agree, and hope we did not just sign-up to pick them up at the airport at 4:00 am.
In the business environment, listening is even more crucial. In my career I have worked in box offices, marketing departments, and business departments. I have witnessed a lot of issues arise in these diverse settings that could easily have been resolved with better communication.
I once worked in a box office where the managers would ask the staff for ideas to improve their patron’s experience. I made suggestions such as better microphones to hear the customer, implementing customer’s own ideas on how to improve their experiences, clearer signage, new and more user-friendly technology, and the list goes on.
Sadly, what I thought were common sense ideas were never implemented and I was never told why. A few months went by and we had the same meeting and were asked the same questions and again, and I wrote down the same suggestions (and again, my ideas weren’t acknowledged). I was feeling like I wasn’t being heard. Why ask for your employees opinions if you are not then going to build upon them? If the ideas aren’t feasible or appropriate (or even if you don’t like them), at least acknowledge the input your employees made. Let them know they were at least heard.
We can all stand to work on our communication and listening skills, and the only way to do that is to practice. It’s not always going to be perfect and neat, but it is essential to the success of your organization as well as yourself as a working professional.
Here are a few suggestions to improve your listening and communication skills:
- Be present. Stop looking at the clock, stop checking your emails, stop thinking about lunch, and most importantly, stop looking to see if Gerard Butler somehow got your cell phone number and is sending text messages confessing his undying love for you. It’s not happening (trust me on that one).
- Clarify. This is a big one. If you think you missed something or, better yet, don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask for the other person to repeat what they said. I would rather make sure I am doing something right the first time then have to re-do it. Make sure you heard the person correctly and clarify what they said.
- Be effective. This is another tough one. Sometimes, people can get too verbose. Get to the point! Be clear and be concise. The longer you beat around the bush, the less likely you are to be heard.
- Be prepared for answers. If you cast the net, be prepared to haul it back in, seaweed, garbage, and all. You may be opening up a bigger conversation, so be prepared for the possibility that things may not go 100% your way.
- Follow-up. This is probably the step we skip most. Even the best of communicators can fall victim to the static! If you have not had a response, a follow-up email or phone call can usually help fix the problem. This also ties back to “clarify,” sometimes a little nudge is all people need.
- Never assume. Assumptions are demon seeds. Just don’t. If you never ask the answer will always be no.
The bottom line here is that better communication can only benefit your organization, so why not focus on implementing some of the above suggestions in your daily interactions with co-workers? If you have other communication techniques or listening exercises that you’ve found to be effective, i’d love to hear about them, comment below!