Whether your immediate answer to this question is “I am a great listener”, “I am a terrible listener” or somewhere in between, asking yourself this question can actually help you improve your ability to listen. Why? Because the moment you ask yourself “how well do I listen?” you are aware. With awareness you will naturally begin to observe yourself. And it is only when we are aware enough to observe our behavior and thought process in anything that we can make a choice to do it better.
Yet the ultimate test of how well we listen has nothing to do with us and our experience at all. The true test of effective listening is whether the person who is speaking actually feels heard and valued for what they said. Heard means that we actually got what the person intended to communicate, not what we think we heard them say. Valued is about leaving a speaker feeling like they matter. Great listeners know it is not just about the words. Listening is all about creating relationship.
So if you want to know how well you are doing, try asking the people you are communicating with on a regular basis for feedback. Start by letting people know you want to get better at listening. Here are a few suggested questions to get you started in a feedback conversation:
1. When we talk do you feel like I actually hear and understand what you are saying?
2. What do I do that has you know I am listening and actually heard you? What do I do that leads you to believe I am not really listening?
3. What have you been saying that you don’t think I have been able to hear?
Don’t let these questions limit you though. Create questions of your own. But do take the time to ask questions and listen closely to the answers. Remember that your intent is to learn. There is no need to defend yourself. None of us are perfect at listening. If someone triggers one of your hot buttons you just learned something important about where you can go to work. It also means they trust you enough to tell you like it is which is a really good sign about the strength of your relationship.
Listening fully is one of the greatest gifts we can give to another person. It also happens to improve our relationships and our results! So have fun reaping the rewards of your heightened awareness this week. You never know what you might hear that can make a difference for the future.
So how well do you listen? Let us know what you learn and discover this week.
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