Listening is an important communication skill. How well people listen will have a major impact on their job effectiveness as well as the quality of their relationships with others. For example, listening is used to obtain information, to understand, to learn, and for enjoyment. But how do you know if people are listening to you?
John Brandon of job search and expert network The Ladders shared that one simple technique to know if someone is listening to you, whether it is in meetings, interviews, or casual settings, is by asking if they know what you are saying. For instance, you are talking about work issues with your boss. You begin by explaining the details, and you may even share new ideas on how to resolve certain issues. You explain everything, pause, and then ask, “What do you think of these ideas?”
Brandon said that people too often skip that part because we view communication as just a firehose of data. We begin by “spraying” information and just hope that our listeners understand the monologue. That is, however, a big mistake. The trick is to cover the topics and then wait for the listener’s response. It is a kind of response that is more than just a verbal agreement or nodding. Asking direct questions is encouraged. It could be asking what ideas they like the best or is there something they disagree with so far.
The Litmus Test for Listeners
Brandon referred to it as the “litmus test for listeners.” They are asked for their feedback to make sure that they have processed what is being said so far. Let us say you are discussing a construction project. You cannot just explain to your coworkers the plans on one space and ask various questions about those construction plans. That will rattle them off. The technique is to make it a part of the conversation flow. The process need not be awkward but seamless. Giving a speech is easy but it is harder to get feedback, pause, and then pick up from the part where you left off. It may even need practice to get used to such a technique.
Becoming a Better Listener
Having a clue into whether a person is listening to you will also help you become a better listener in the process. Once you recognize the signals that other people are sending you in a conversation, it will help you summarize their thoughts as well as your own and then provide new insight. Usually, people are just discussing but having a more collaborative conversation will lead to better business decisions and results. These cooperative discussions can even pave the way for the creation of brilliant new products, higher sales, and better market opportunities.
Ways to Show People You’re Listening
Business etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore said that people are drawn to those who make them feel being listened to and special. There are ways to show people that you are listening to them. These include:
1. Listening with your whole self – This requires maintaining eye contact without glaring or staring. The technique is to focus on the speaker and then lean slightly forward to signal that you are open to what is being said. Ask questions if clarification is needed, smile, and nod. A smile and a nod are a nonverbal message that you are fully involved in the topic and you are also at the moment.
2. Relax and open up – The tendency of some people in a conversation is to fold up, which signals that they are threatened or uncomfortable. They cross their ankles, legs, arms, and even shift in their seat. They may also put their hands in their pockets and angle their body away. In effect, it creates a disconnect from the person speaking. This was also described in the book titled “You Say More Than You Think.” Author Janine Driver shared that the direction of the belly button reveals people’s emotional state and their attitude.
3. Conceal nervousness the best way you can – Sometimes, people feel tense in a certain situation. However, you should be aware of these nervous gestures in socializing with people. Common signs of nervousness or unease include clearing throat every few minutes, picking cuticles, biting fingernails, repeatedly clicking the ballpoint pen, and fussing with your clothing, jewelry, or hair.
4. Smile – This one was highlighted in the first part. Whitmore said that a genuine and warm smile is the most beautiful curve on the human body. It is an expression that tells others “I’m interested” or “I’m approachable.” It can immediately put the speaker and other people at ease. Smiling during small talk sends a signal to other people that you like talking to them. On your part, this increases longevity too.
Listening Skills: Statistics
In a 2001 study, it was established that 70% to 80% of people’s waking hours are spent in some form of communication, and listening makes up about 45% of our daily communication. Some forms of communication include reading (16%), writing (9%), and speaking (30%). Listening is so important that employers even provide listening skills training for their employees.
California-based software and recruiting corporation Jobvite surveyed more than 800 recruiters to know what impacts the decision to hire a candidate during an in-person interview. Positive factors include conversation skills (69%), industry knowledge (64%), enthusiasm (62%), prepared questions (29%), appearance and style (25%), punctuality (22%), portfolio (19%), and commonalities (1%).
Of the negative factors that recruiters shared, it included being rude to staff (86%), checking their phone (71%), showing up late (58%), bad hygiene (52%), interrupting interviewer (39%), bringing food (38%), too casual dress (24%), bringing beverage (14%), bad handshake (6%), too much makeup (5%), poor fashion (4%), and not enough makeup (1%). The survey showed that conversation skills and enthusiasm were among the top factors they considered to hire a person.
In interpersonal relationships, the importance of listening cannot also be overemphasized. Leadership development firm Zenger/Folkman’s CEO Jack Zenger said based on their group’s study than females (5.28%) are better listeners than men (4.94%). As people get older, they also become more interested and more capable of listening.
Speakers don’t have to reiterate what they said or repeat everything. Using the technique to know if you are being listened to will help make projects or any other tasks run smoother. It also doesn’t lead to miscommunication.