When I was a child my mother told me “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Of course, I asked her why?
She said, “So you can spend twice as much time listening as you do speaking.” My mother was telling me to practice active listening.
Every day I meet with different stakeholders. While most of the meetings are positive, sometimes I meet with individuals who are not very happy. As I prepare for each meeting, I always remind myself of my mother’s words of wisdom.
A short time in the past I met with an individual who was very upset. She didn’t like a decision one of my team members made with regard to her child’s situation. When she came into my office, she was “spitting nails.”
As my team member tried to explain the situation, the individual kept interrupting. I could tell my team member was getting very frustrated. After the individual interrupted several times, creating more stress for everyone, my team member said “are you going to let me finish?”
At that point I took over the meeting because we were not making progress. Over the next 15 minutes, I listened to her concerns. We discussed different options to address the situation. I would love to say she left my office happy, but that would be an over statement of the facts.
After the meeting, I asked my team member his thoughts on the meeting. He took a deep breath and spent the next five minutes expressing his frustration. As I listened to him, I could hear my mother’s voice reminding me of the importance of listening.
After he finished, I told him he should consider practicing active listening. Of course, his response was “I was listening.” I smiled and told him instead of trying to explain his decision, I suggested he focus his attention on the other person by practicing active listening.
So, what is active listening? The University of Colorado defines active listening as a structured way of listening and responding that focuses the attention on the speaker to improve mutual understanding (2005).
Don’t interject or cut someone short while they are talking. Instead, listen carefully, and then try to understand their point of view. From there, you can then come up with a response that is appropriate for the moment.
Through active listening, millennial leaders will learn a lot from others. You’ll become a great communicator and increase your influence.
Are you practicing active listening?
Dr. Kim Moore, your guide to leading with confidence!
Kim D. Moore
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