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The Sooner You Know How to Really Listen, The Better

By Chris Burnham Listening is the highest form of respect that you can show another individual. Most of us think we are good liste...

By Chris Burnham
Listening is the highest form of respect that you can show another individual. Most of us think we are good listeners. Unfortunately, there is a difference between hearing someone and really listening. Would you like to become a better listener? Here are a few tips to help you on your way.

Focus on the person who is speaking

I was born with only 50% of my hearing ability. I was born with nerve deafness in my right ear and have lived with it my whole life. I don't know how to live any differently. Because of this, I've learned to adjust my listening behavior to make up for my lack of hearing. I've learned to focus on the person who is speaking. I may occasionally glance up and make eye contact, but I'm also focusing on their lips. I can't read lips, but I can hear their words more clearly when I'm focused on what they are saying.

Use body language to show you are focused on who is speaking

One of the strategies I've learned to focus on the person who is talking is to position myself where we are facing each other. If we are standing beside each other looking at a problem, I'll make sure to turn my head completely toward them when they are speaking. Sometimes I'll even move so that I'm directly facing the person who is speaking. People will typically respond positively when they understand that you are trying to hear them correctly the first time. My wife is the best at this. When she needs to tell me something really important and my good ear is away from her, she will gently place her hand on my forearm to get my attention.

Hear the other person to repeat back to them, not to reply

Social media has really changed the way that we communicate. We often times share something and keep sharing without getting feedback or confirming that the message we originally communicated was received. When listening to someone, ask a clarifying question like, "Can you help me understand [insert their last point they were communicating]?" You can also repeat back to them what you think you heard and ask "Am I understanding you correctly?"
Never listen as a pause to you making your next point or to simply respond. That's called arguing! Treat the other person who is speaking as you would like to be treated when it's your turn to speak.

Have only one conversation at a time.

Multiple conversations can be distracting. Whether you are in a group setting or one on one, this is equally applicable. That means don't have a sidebar conversation in a group while a larger conversation is taking place. Turn off or put away any potential distractions like cell phones. Be present, others will notice your lead and follow suit.
My call to action today is to pick one conversation that you are present in and use just one of the strategies I've mentioned above. I know it will benefit you and your team.
If you would like more tips and advice on becoming a better teammate and leader, go to and sign up to get our 10 Ways to Become a Better Lean Leader in a Challenging Environment.
Have a great week, and remember progress over perfection.

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