We all like to think we’re effective communicators, especially in the workplace. But there are behavioural blind spots that can trip up even the savviest communicator.
What we think is helpful may not be effective on the receiving end – that’s why it’s important to check in and assess how we might be communicating with others.
Roadblocks to effective communication
- Are you a fixer? Some of us rush to find solutions when the person before us dearly wants a chance to be heard. Try pausing before you begin to focus on solutions or ask the person if that’s what is needed in the moment.
- Do you suffer from wishful thinking? Sometimes we only hear what we want to hear. It’s true. If you feel yourself narrating a different story in your head to the one that’s being shared with you, come back to the present moment.
- Need to slow down? Jumping to conclusions before someone has finished speaking, whether based on past experience or your own values, instantly blocks communication. Try to quieten the mind and lean in instead.
- If you’re feeling unsure of yourself, that fear can come at the expense of listening to others. Be mindful of the ‘what am I going to say next…’ narrative. It happens to us all. Instead, try to focus on what’s being said now.
- Do you derail difficult conversations? While this may be self-protective, changing the subject when something seems threatening can also be a sign that we need to strengthen our listening skills and stay present.
The art of listening
When we think about communicating effectively, it’s easy to focus on how we speak and share our thoughts with one another. But how we listen is just as important. When we avoid the roadblocks above, our colleagues are more likely to feel heard and understood, which creates a more harmonious work environment.
Good listeners demonstrate a myriad of personal skills, such as:
- Affirming others – people feel listened to in their presence
- Knowing themselves – they have boundaries and know how to use them
- Building trust – they’re able to create stability through a sense of trust
- Bridging age, gender and culture – they work to understand what they may not yet know or have experienced
- Showing a genuine interest – they help people to feel accepted by being curious and interested in their lives.
How to be an active listener
Would your workplace be different if active listening was a priority? If you’d like to strengthen your active listening muscles, consider the three stages below. Each offers the chance to rethink how we communicate and can achieve greater harmony in our lives.
- Sensing – Active listeners offer their attention, avoid forming opinions, show an interest and try not to interrupt or plan ahead for when they get to speak!
- Responding – Active listeners clarify what’s being shared with them by asking questions or using ‘it sounds like you’re saying that’ to make sure they understand.
- Validating – Active listeners show empathy, acknowledge feelings and feed back the information they’ve received, to ensure the speaker has been understood.
If you’re keen to be an effective communicator in your workplace, focus on strengthening your own skills and develop an awareness of how you approach others. Why not do as Brene Brown suggests: “Be as passionate about listening as you are about wanting to be heard.”