The art of listening has changed in the last two years. As our society shifted to increase virtual communication, our ability to listen critically has been diminished. Listening can be 90% of providing outstanding customer service. In our uncertain economy, outstanding customer service builds loyalty which is required to maintain your customer or member population. So how can we improve our listening skills?
Clear Your Filters
It is very common to have many considerations on our mind when we start or join a conversation. Your considerations or thoughts can be generated from a bad nights sleep, a celebration, to a poor breakfast. Your thoughts can also include pressures from schedules, goals, or projects. If you do not clear these thoughts (filters) prior to engaging in a conversation, the understanding of the message can be negatively influenced. One best practice is a breathing exercise, allowing your mind (filter) to reset and clear your mind. While it may not work 100%, it will reduce the amount of thoughts on your mind and help improve your listening skills.
Our virtual communication provides us cover to multi-task while engaging in a meeting. Multi-tasking can include looking at email, eating, or petting a domestic animal during a virtual meeting. Another best practice is to prepare 15 minutes in advance of any conversation to close email, love your pets, and have a snack prior to engaging in a virtual meeting or conversation. This will also improve your listening skills.
The art of active listening has been around for decades but is seldom used due to, in part, to our need to rush through conversations. People that practice active listening do so to confirm hearing the right message. Active listening requires only one behavior, “so if I understand you correctly”, simple validation that the correct message was heard and the person communicating is assured listening is successful. Any professional can clear the appropriate time and pace to actively listen and boost the accuracy of understanding. Another strategy within active listening is building commonality. All parties require to be understood and possess similarities that build better understanding, thus move effective listening.
Listening can be improved by implementing three simple steps. Listening is critical to success because it allows people to be heard, understood, and belong (similar) to the greater good. Not all conversations are perfect. Not all conversations are built on overwhelming agreement. Not all conversations require action. Listening is an inclusive behavior that does not need consensus but understanding and showing people you care and will listen.
Brad Lebowsky, MBA
CEO NEA, LLC