6 Listening Lessons From The Experts

Calvin Coolidge once said, “No man ever listened himself out of a job”. As an employee engagement specialist, this quote really resonates with me. Solid and effective communication in the workplace is undoubtedly how we can start to turn around the $11 billion lost annually due to employee turnover.

When we talk about improving workplace communications most people will immediately think of ways to be heard more, to accurately get their point across and garner respect. However, effective communication has two sides, and the listening side very often gets neglected. Take some lessons in listening from the greats.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”

— Ralph Nichols, Father of the Field of Listening

This most basic of principles is often lost on corporate America. Decisions that affect everyone are made at the top, with little or no context from the remaining 95% of the organization. In order to create an engaged, satisfied and retained workforce, leaders have to ask and listen. True engagement demands that you really be in the moment with the person. Don’t think of what you will say next, really listen.

“Man’s inability to communicate is a result of his failure to listen effectively.”

 Carl Rogers, Psychologist

How many times have you kept your mouth shut and let someone else talk, only to actually be formulating your response the entire time. How many times have you heard, “That’s not what I said”? Very often, we hear what we want to, or what our insecurities or personal agendas interpret. Listening isn’t simply keeping quiet. Whenever you feel the need to communicate what’s on your mind, instead shut up and ask a powerful question…such as “What about this is important to you? What do you really want? What else?” This will build a more meaningful conversation.

“Big egos have little ears.”

— Robert Schuller, Author and Pastor 

So many leaders have trouble with this one. Talking over people or interrupting doesn’t give your opinion any more weight; in fact, it makes you look like a jerk. Open, positive and genuine approaches at respectful workplace relationships are a catalyst for great things to happen. The difference you will find in how people respond to you and one another can be pretty astounding. The natural response to respect, is usually respect…who would have known?

“I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen. Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.”

— Lee Iacocca, Former CEO Chrysler Corporation

Couldn’t agree more –“People need to listen at least as much as they need to talk.” Why then are so many companies still performing quarterly reviews and annual employee surveys? There seems to be a huge imbalance between the talking and listening here.

“I think the one lesson I have learned is that there is no substitute for paying attention.”

— Diane Sawyer, ABC Television Anchor

Everyone is guilty of it –getting caught up in the day-to-day and just “getting through” the workday. There’s a lot going on that matters, a lot that people are saying that counts. Are you paying attention?

Communication is the backbone of any successful relationship, and listening is a huge part of that. How much importance do you consciously put on listening? Is it equal to your need to be heard? It should be.

Being a good listener doesn’t come to any of us naturally. If our parents had a dime for every time they had to say, “Did you hear me?” or, “Are you paying attention?” we would have all had college funds bursting at the seams. Being a good listener takes a very conscious effort; one that will always prove to garner a great return. To end, please remember that there is a reason we have two ears and one mouth…so try to listen more and talk less.

(About the Author: Melissa, a marketing professional with over a decade of leadership, has led marketing teams in companies ranging from travel to fundraising to small business apps, always multiplying results with her contagious ambition. And while the pressure of being the marketing mastermind would be more than enough for most pros, Melissa is also VP of Talent Management of Herd Wisdom.)

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