Listen More Speak Less —What Is Especially Essential for Executives?

Dec 24, 2018

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood”

– Stephen R Covey

Effective communication is a critical leadership skill. Managers need to know how to communicate properly to persuade, premediate, inspire, and motivate the team. Without effective communication, you will find it hard to unlock the true potential of individual team members.

An often overlooked yet essential communication skill for executives is that of listening. Executives should listen more and talk less to effectively lead their team. Here are some of the reasons why it's critical for executives to listen more and speak less.

1. Gain More Information

By simply listening more and speaking less, you are bound to gain more information. In this data-driven world, every piece of information is important for the success of the business.

When your goal is to listen more and speak less, you will more likely to listen actively and focus on the words of the speaker. This will help you gain valuable information that you might have missed if you concentrated on your thoughts alone.

By actively listening, you will absorb the information and form a concrete opinion about a matter. This will help you make more informed decisions, resulting in a positive outcome.

2. Better Comprehend What the Other Person is Speaking

If you tend to speak more, you will likely zone out when a person is speaking. As a result, you won't be able to fully understand what the other person is talking about.

By listening more than speaking, you can focus on what the other person is saying. Hearing out a person till he or she ends speaking will help you completely understand the message, and take appropriate actions.

3. Make the Other People Feel Valued

Executives need to make sure that individual team members see themselves as a valued member of the team. When you listen more and speak less, you will make the other person feel more valued. It shows that you are genuinely interested in what the other person has to say about the matter.

Consider giving more time to the other person to speak on the topic. This encourages the person to share their opinions freely about a matter. You may be surprised by the amount of information you can get by simply letting the other person to talk more.

4. Avoid Making Hasty Conclusions

Another benefit of listening more and speaking less is that you will avoid making biased generalizations.

A biased generalization occurs when the conclusion is made using insufficient data. The conclusion is not justified as it's based on biased evidence. This will likely lead you to make costly mistakes when making a decision.

The 'need for speed' often forces executives to make the interaction brief. They cut the speaker and don't give time to finish the speech. This makes the interaction meaningless. Meaningful conversations involve a person actually listening to what the other person has to say. You can create a wrong perspective based on listening to a few words during a conversation.

You will get the right picture when you allow the other person to talk more. This will result in making decisions that are backed by ground reality.

5. People Will Listen to Your Words

When you listen attentively, and allow people to speak without any interruption, they will also begin to listen carefully to what you have to say.

If you constantly share your opinions with others, a point will come when no one will be willing to listen to your words, or put any importance to what you say. In contrast, if you speak sparingly, your words will have more weight.

This does not suggest that you should not share your opinions at all.

Your team expects you to share what you think about the task. However, if you spend more time talking than listening, people will feel alienated and stop listening to you. This will make it harder for you to motivate and persuade your team to perform to the best of their abilities.

6. Your Words Won't Come to Haunt You Later On

Once words come out of ones mouth they cannot be taken back. When you listen more and speak less, you will less likely say things that shouldn't have been spoken. You will evaluate every word before speaking.

The less you say, the lower are the chances of saying anything that you shouldn't have. Your employees won't talk behind your back for words that you have spoken on the heat of the moment or without considering about the consequences. This will lead to a more positive corporate image.

By keeping your points short, you will also more clearly convey the message across and avoid any confusion. You will say only the things that are important for the task at hand. This will ensure that you don't inadvertently say anything that could be used against you in the future.

Now that you about the importance of listening more and speaking less, the questions is what are some of the tips that can help you to improve learning skills and make a more positive impression on your team members.

If you are want to improve your listening skills, you should follow the seven tips mentioned below.

Tip#1. Practice 3600Listening

An article published in Harvard Business Review had described three levels of listening: focused listening, internal listening, and 3600 listening. Executives need to strive for the last of the skills.

So, what exactly is 3600 listening?

360-degree listening involves connecting deeply with the person and becoming fully present during the conversation. This technique involves listening to the words of the speaker and then repeating the words in your mind.

With 360-degree listening, you focus completely on the individual who is speaking instead of splitting focus between the speaker's words and your own stream of thoughts. Mastering the 360-degree listening technique will be an invaluable tool particularly in conflict resolution. You will understand the source of the problem and effectively handle conflicts in the workplace.

An executive who practices the360-degree listening technique will not only strive to understand what is being said but also what is left out. It involves asking questions until the speaker divulges all the information. Doing this will allow you to develop a deeper understanding of issues and address them appropriately.

Tip#2. Keep an Mind Open

One of the most common reasons that people tend to speak more and listen less is that they shut their minds and don't want to listen to the opinions of the others.

As a leader, you have the right to formulate your own opinions. But this does not mean that you should not listen to the opinions of others.

Your listening skill will improve if you keep your mind open for suggestions of others. Stop saying to yourself that the speaker is stupid and don't know anything. When you start making judgments, your mind automatically closes, preventing you from focusing on the words of the speaker.

You should avoid hasty generalizations and let the speaker finish the words. Keep an open mind and listen to what the other person has to say. Don't interrupt the listener and let the speaker finish speaking. This will result in more effective communication and help you in forming an unbiased opinion.

The most powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.— Rachel Naomi Remen

Tip#3. Consider Interruptions a BIG Communication Sin

Interrupting a person makes the speaker lose his or her train of thoughts. This will prevent you from getting the full picture. It also sends a negative impression such as you don't value the opinions of the speaker or consider yourself to be more important.

Furthermore, you should remember that people speak and think at a different rate. You should let a person speak at his or her own pace without interrupting. This will result in a more effective communication of ideas and understanding of issues.

Tip#4. Develop Empathy During Conversations

Empathy is at the heart of effective listening.

You should put yourself in the shoes of the other person to understand how that person is feeling during a conversation. Imagine the challenges the other person may be facing. Trying to understand the feelings of the speaker will result in a better comprehension of the words spoken.

To develop empathy, you should put aside your own views and preconceptions and try to understand the perspective of the speaker. This requires going beyond your own concerns and see the world from the eyes of another.

Developing an empathic approach can be one of the most important steps towards improving your listening skills and building a cooperative and collaborative work environment.

Tip#5. Focus on the Non-Verbal Cues

Listening involves not just focusing on what is being said but also how it's being said. It involves focusing on both the message and the body language of the speaker. Things such as posture, gestures, eye contact, tone, and facial expression can reveal untold truth.These convey information that is not evident through spoken words.

Look for incongruent behaviors to understand the message.

When listening you shouldn't just focus on the content of the spoken message but also the way that message is being delivered. You should look for incongruent behaviors. Does the person frown when saying everything is fine? Are the hands of the person clenched when saying that there is no problem?

The subtle cues provided by body language can help you in understanding the real picture. In case you notice a mismatch between a person's words and body language, you should ask questions for clarification. By inquiring further, you will be able to know what the person is really trying to say.

The key to understanding the non-verbal signals is to take a holistic approach and look at a group of body signals. This will help in a better assessment of what the person is actually trying to say.

Tip#6. Don't Listen with the Intent to Reply

A lot of executives subconsciously treat a conversation as a hearing in a court. They adopt a defensive approach with the presumption that the speaker is trying to attack them. As a result, they listen with the intent to reply instead of listening to understand.

Remember that conversation refer to exchanging ideas. The purpose of a conversation is to gain new insights and better understand the situation. You should, therefore, treat each conversation as such.

Tip#7. Listen with the Context in Mind

You should always consider the context when listening to others. The context can result in a very different interpretation of the message. Knowing about the context will help you better understand the message.

To know the context, you should ask the speaker about it during the start of the conversation. Request the speaker to provide a brief description of the background of the situation. One the context is clear, the message will be easy to understand.

Final Remarks About Listen More, Speak Less

Silence is considered golden for a good reason. Under the impulse to take control of the conversation, most of us tend to speak more and listen less. However, this is a destructive behavior that will lead to hasty decisions, biased judgments, and costly mistakes. It may even discourage the staff to openly share their opinions with you.

So, during the next conversation, you should take a moment to consider whether what you are going to say is really important. Let the other person complete what he or she has to say before you say anything. This will result in a more meaningful dialogue allowing you to gain maximum information from the conversation.

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