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Leon Kotze - Action, Sport, and Performance Portrait Photographer

How to Listen in a hectic world

By learning how to listen effectively in a hectic world, you get to make better decisions about the how and why of things. You improve the quality of information and enhance accuracy. That, in turn, allows you to improve performance and save time by managing the flow of information and to keeping you track.

There are many challenges to listening, such as:

  • High volumes (email, IM, desk visits …)
  • What is important?
  • Physical noise.
  • Unclear responsibilities, roles, and lack of ownership.
  • Language and culture differences.
  • Aggressive sales, marketing and advertising tactics.
  • Understanding technical details.
  • Different interpretations of the same information.

Consider the following when listening the next time:

  1. Evaluate your need to listen.
  2. Manage internal and external noise.
  3. Demonstrate a curious and open mind.
  4. Manage the flow of information.

Evaluate your need to listen.

  • It impacts organisation or customer goals, needs or priorities.
  • Involves an essential priority for you, another person, or both.
  • Provides an opportunity to build a relationship.
  • Comes from someone you cannot ignore.
  • Provide a chance to renew your energy.

Manage internal and external noise.

  • External noise sources:
    • Open plan office. (Other people’s conversations)
    • Mobiles, instant messaging and email.
    • Interruptions from others.
  • Internal noise sources:
    • Unrelated thoughts and pressures
    • Assumptions or biases
    • Preconceptions
    • Reaction to emotional words
    • Speaking style
    • Unfamiliar accent
    • Distracting habits
    • Forming your response to what is being said.
  • Manage noise:
    • Focus on the speaker!
    • What do I need to learn? (purpose)
    • Resist prejudging
    • Assume positive intent. (Clarify and confirm!)
    • Self-coach. (internal dialogue)

Demonstrate a curious and open mind:

  • Display sincere, attentive non-verbal behaviour.
  • Ask helpful questions.
  • Pay attention to your voice tone. (Congruent with the message)
  • Use short phrases to acknowledge the speaker.
  • Allow for silences (10-15 seconds) to encourage the speaker to respond more fully.
  • Acknowledge emotions to encourage dialogue.
  • Summarise your understanding of what’s been said.

If you are in a meeting and not “speaking”, then why are you there?

Manage the flow of information

  • Suggest a time frame – be honest and realistic about the available time.
  • Establish a joint outcome – what’s in it for you and them?
  • Gently redirect – steer speaker back to the topic. (How does this relate to the issue?)
  • Wrap up – express thanks, summarise next actions.

When all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.

I hope this post will help you move from: Ignore; Reject; React, to Listen; Process; Respond.

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