Why listening is something everyone should cultivate

This week, we are delighted to have a guest post from the incomparable Galia BarHava-Monteith, co-founder of Professionelle. We’ve been working with Professionelle this year to make their PR really sing – but with our current staff falling squarely in Professionelle’s target demographic, we’ve also all learned a lot from our interactions with everyone involved in the organisation! 

Listening is something I’m really passionate about. Throughout my working career I’ve constantly found myself re-discovering the importance of listening. I’ve also noticed how very few people do it well.

I became aware of the importance of careful and active listening when I was Fonterra’s Ethics manager. I always knew it was important, but that’s not to say it came easily to me. What I found out was that being listened to meant a lot to people.

Many years later I am now doing a PhD in person centred medicine and once more, I am realising how important listening is for people who come to see professionals.

Professionals, colleagues or managers feel inclined to solve the problem, rather than listening and guiding the person having the problem to reach the solution themselves.  But, the more you listen, and gently guide someone through questioning, the more likely they are to not only come to a solution, but also take control and ownership of that problem, and in future, deal with it themselves.

To be a good workplace listener, you actually need to be someone who people want to talk to. We all know people who think they are great listeners, but in reality are very poor at it. One of the most basic things you can do is work on your ability to attend to what is being said. This way you can make people feel they can truly talk to you and you will listen.

So how can you do it?

– Make sure you are in the right space to listen. If you are not, be honest about it. People respect honesty. However, if you want them to come back and talk with you, then schedule a time when you can have a good conversation.

– When you are in the right space to listen, make sure you show this. Work on a posture of involvement. Lean forward; be relaxed and alert.

– Respond to the speaker, not to distractions. Looking at your computer, taking phone calls, or looking at the person walking past your office is not only rude, it also interferes with listening.

– Be mindful. If there are distraction in the space (music or noise), try and bring your attention back to the person speaking to you.  We all wonder off sometime, but practice does make perfect in this context!

– Summarising what was said. This one is a great way to show you are listening and interested. It is also a great way to check that you understand the issues at hand. Often, just by summarising what was said, people quickly recognise the issue at hand and find the solution for themselves!

By Galia BarHava-Monteith

If you’ve found this illuminating, good news! This is just an abridged version of a longer piece by Galia – so pop over to the Professionelle website to do some further reading up on the power of listening.