BOSS AT STAFF MEETING: Do you have anything positive to add to this meeting?
ME: Yeah, I just realized I can sleep with my eyes open.
Meetings – the unproductivity of them – are the butt of many office jokes. Nothing gets done, no one has anything to say, they are a time-waster.
In a recent article on effective meetings in the Harvard Business Review, Sabina Nawaz draws from her experience working with a deaf colleague and the importance of active listening. She emphasizes the importance of being present, putting another’s words in context, paraphrasing, and comparing both points of view.
Active listening is the key to effective communication in meetings and in one-to-one conversations. How many of us become distracted by our wandering minds or because we are focused on what we’re going to say next? Active listening is a learned skill that is critical in business and personal relationships. Here are the main components of active listening:
—Stay fully engaged when others are speaking. Don’t let your mind wander so that you lose the points others are making. Making eye contact and turning toward the person speaking can help you stay engaged.
—Paraphrase – or ‘mirror’ – (repeat what you heard in your own words) – the other person’s points to test your understanding. It is important to understand another’s point of view. You are not required to agree, just understand.
—Acknowledge the other person’s emotions (if there is emotion involved in the discussion). This is called reflection, and is important to help ensure the other person knows you have heard them.
—Offer responses that indicate you have heard your colleague. Doing so shows respect for the other person’s point of view and increases the likelihood he or she will listen with an open mind to your points.
Next time you’re in a meeting, or even talking 1-1 with a colleague, practice your active listening skills. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn and how much more productive your meetings become!