One of the most overlooked, simple ways to encourage people, especially when they are struggling, is also one of the most powerful. Listen. Put down the phone, turn away from the keyboard, look someone in the eyes and truly listen! Being fully present and giving someone your undivided attention is a rare and cherished gift.
The best listeners seek to understand both what’s being said verbally and what’s being felt by the speaker. In his book “The Lost Art of Listening,” Michael P. Nichols explains that “the essence of good listening is empathy.” You practice this by “entering into the experience of the other person.” Use reflective listening skills to let your teammates know they are being heard and understood. Reflective listening is hearing what another person has said and then rephrasing back what you heard to make sure that you understood. The other person feels validated and knows that you comprehend what they were communicating.
Juan: “I’ve got such tight deadlines, and we’ve got to get this proposal right to win the deal.”
Linda: “It sounds like you’re under a lot of pressure right now.” (Reflects the emotions and rephrases what she just heard from Juan.)
Juan: “Exactly! A lot is hanging in the balance. Thanks for understanding.”
In some cases, you may have to find the right time in the right place to ask how someone is doing, how things are going or how they are handling a challenging situation. Even though you may not be in a position to take action or improve someone’s situation, just listening is a great Cheer Leadership tip during a tough time. Your gift of time and attention will earn a Super Bowl playoff position in their mind. People want to feel valued, heard, and appreciated and believe that they are making a difference.
Did you know that when someone feels like they aren’t being heard and listened to, they can quickly become lonely, sad, frustrated, or even angry? In the workplace, this can result in workers who are disengaged, produce low-quality work, feel unempowered, and have little to no loyalty to the organization.
One often-overlooked, but immensely important part of communication is listening. While studies show that most people believe that they have above-average listening skills, the average person listens with only about 25% efficiency. Perhaps that’s where the saying about humans having “two ears and one mouth so we can listen more and talk less” comes from. At work, the ability to listen and comprehend “allows workers to build a strong rapport with colleagues, managers, and clients.”
One way to truly listen to and connect with your employees is to use reflective or active listening. When you hear one of your employees vent about something that is stressful or overwhelming to them, take the time to really stop and listen to what they are saying. Don’t just listen to respond. Listen to truly get a sense of what the issue is and then reflect what you are hearing back to them to make sure you understand what is being said. Remember, being a good listener involves “drawing out important information from others to help them brainstorm and uncover fresh ideas and solutions.”
This week, I challenge you to research reflective listening if you aren’t familiar with what it is. Familiarize yourself with the different techniques that are used in reflective listening. Take a few minutes to role play or practice with your spouse, partner, friend, or family member so it becomes more familiar to you and easier to implement at work with your employees. And keep in mind that one of the most powerful ways to enhance any relationship is to take the time to sincerely listen!
FUN FACT: Active listening was created by Dr. Carl Rogers; he called it Reflective Listening. The term Active Listening was coined by Richard Farson and essentially introduced to the world by Dr. Thomas Gordon.