I read an article in the Harvard Business Review which states that leaders who practice “good listening” behavior create a team whose members have a higher level of trust and who engage in problem-solving with a greater level of disclosure and less stress.

My practical experience would endorse that research.  The constant challenge for someone like me who likes to talk, is to sideline talking in favor of listening.

Here are some best practices of good listeners:

  • Give 100% of your attention, or do not listen.  Put aside distractions.  Maintain good eye contact.
  • Do not interrupt.  Not interrupting saves time.  Studies show that deciding not to interrupt in advance of a discussion will allow more to be shared in five minutes than typically gets shared in 30 minutes of a give and take discussion.  Try it.  You’ll see it works.
  • Do not judge or evaluate.  When you judge and evaluate, you aren’t focused on listening to what is being shared.  You miss things.  Concentrate.  Suspend evaluation.  You’ll learn more.
  • Do not impose your solutions.  Don’t look at listening as an opportunity to influence outcomes with your ideas.  Start with thinking your job is to help the teammate arrive at their best ideas.
  • Ask more (good) questions.  The best listeners ask great questions.  Lots of them.  Period.
  • Reflect. Great listeners learn from every encounter.  They realize where they fell short and strive to improve.  They get better.

No one is a perfect listener.  It’s a communication skill that can always be honed.