Good listening skills will increase the amount of effective feedback leaders get from their employees and team members. Unfortunately, pure listening – really listening and hearing – is not an easy task. We engage in four types of listening, but only one of these really opens the communication floodgates:
- Physical Listening: Here, we are physically present but not really paying attention. This can happen when we’re distracted or speaking with someone we don’t take seriously. In this situation, we’re not actually hearing what’s being said to us and may be missing important information.
- Tape (or Digital) Listening: This is a small step up from Physical Listening, but still not really effective. In this case, we aren’t really interested in what the other person is saying but feel we need to be partially present. We listen just well enough to repeat back what the person said, but we have little real understanding of the message.
- Judgmental Listening: This is just as ineffective as physical and tape listening. We hear the other person, but let our emotions get in the way. When emotions are running high, we aren’t listening but rather waiting for our turn for rebuttal. We’re so busy formulating our response that we don’t hear what the other person is saying.
- Active (or Empathic) Listening: This is the most effective form of listening. We are actively engaged in dialogue with the other person — listening because we truly want to understand what he or she is saying. With active listening, our goal is understanding, not necessarily agreement. Listening actively and effectively involves three behaviors: paraphrasing, reflecting, and asking clarifying questions.
We use paraphrasing (brief recapping of the facts), reflection (acknowledging the speaker’s feelings), and clarifying questions (questions to test our understanding) to stay actively engaged in conversation and ensure we have truly heard the other person’s views.
Learning to listen actively will significantly improve your connection to your team members, build trust, and improve your leadership effectiveness.