Perhaps you’ve heard the quip, “We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason,”
It is such a well-known quote because good listeners are difficult to find. How difficult you may ask, well according to Psychology Today, research shows that only about 10 percent of us are good listeners. Here is why this is important to know as it relates to you and your company.
If only 10 percent of your employees are good listeners, well you do the math. As you can see, that quickly adds up to a lot of bad listening, and bad listeners are expensive. Market Expert conducted a study and found that “miscommunication costs companies with 100 employees an average of $420,000 per year” and “communication barriers could be costing business around $37 billion a year.”
Maybe we shouldn’t be “putting our money where our mouth is” but investing it where our ears are.
To give you an average breakdown of a typical day, we spend approximately 70% of our time communicating:
- 30% talking
- 45% listening
- 25% reading and writing.
So, if we’re spending the majority of our time listening why are there so few individuals good at it? The answer…
…most of us listen to respond (Self-focused) and that’s not good. Good listeners listen to understand (Other-focused).
Good listening, which is also referred to as Active Listening, is a skill that can be learned and developed by anyone. Here are the basics and if you apply these simple practices as often as possible you are certain to join the 10%.
Give Your Full Attention
- Treat the person across from you as if they are THE most important person in the room
- Put away your phone and all other possible distractions
- Notice their non-verbals; like body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and where they focus their gaze
Reflect/Paraphrase What You’ve Heard
- When we know we’re going to have to repeat what we’ve heard, we listen more intently
- People love to have what they’ve said reflected back to them– it reassures them that you care
- Nod your head in agreement to show you’re tracking with them
- Be inquisitive- instead of asking questions based on your agenda ask them questions that show you’re interested in what THEY’RE saying.
- For example: If someone has just told you they were struggling with a particular task or individual, don’t just say “That’s too bad,” and then start telling them how to fix it. Say something like “What are you finding most challenging about that task or individual?”
- Use open-ended questions that begin with “Who” “What” “Where” “When” and “How”
- These encourage more dialogue and information sharing, which can be the difference between the full story and half of the story
- Stay away from “yes” or “no” answer questions (closed-ended questions)
- These can put a quick end to a potentially robust conversation.
The good news is that since we’re listening 45% of the time when communicating (and we communicate 70% of our day), you will have plenty of opportunities to apply and practice these simple yet very effective tips. Use them well and often. Together we can become masterful active listeners, move that dial-up from a meager 10% and save an immeasurable amount of time and money along the way.