"Can you hear me now?" You have probably heard that expression in a commercial for a popular phone company. It strikes a chord with us because so many people have been frustrated by lousy phone service. It is really hard to communicate with people when they can only hear every third word you are saying. A clear signal is vital to good communication.
A greater point we can take away from that illustration is that it is frustrating when people don't feel they are being heard. The problem I am referring to is not poor phone service. It's poor listening skills. Many problems we face can be traced to people not listening to one another. Many marriages end because of lack of communication. Children can become rebellious when they feel they are not being heard. We just seem to have a built in desire to communicate and be heard.
A report in the Toronto Star stated that we learn 85 percent of what we know by listening. Strangely enough, it is estimated that most people forget about 75 percent of what they hear. Because listening plays such a huge role in absorbing knowledge, we need to examine our listening skills. We also need to consider how we can communicate in a way that makes other people listen to us. Both of these are key to good management.
How are you doing as a manager? Do you listen to your employees? Are your employees listening to you? Let's review a few key areas we can improve our listening skills.
What happens at a production meeting or seminar if the speaker is boring? Quite naturally, your mind begins to wander and you tune them out. You are not listening and therefore leave without getting the point being made. What if you are the one conducting the meeting? Are your workers tuning you out? Are they yawning with eyes glazed over? Are they frequently checking their watches counting the seconds until you stop talking?
Here are some suggestions to keep your employees tuned in. First, keep the meeting short. Establish the main points you want to cover and stick to them. Don't try to cram too much into one meeting.
Next, try to vary the tone of your voice. It will give life to what you are talking about. You don't want your message to sound "canned" or insincere. Have you been in a meeting listening to an emotionless talk? If the speaker doesn't seem to care about his subject, why should the listeners? No matter how important your message is, people have a hard time paying attention to a dull speaker.
When you have to address someone one-on-one, let them speak without interruption. That can be a challenge when you don't agree with them or you feel you already know what they are going to say.
Try to keep distractions to a minimum. Don't answer phone calls or check e-mail while someone is trying to make a point. Give them your full attention. Your workers will be happier knowing you are listening to them.