Listening takes practice if you want to do it well. But, it is difficult when you allow simple things to prevent you from listening.
Few consider listening to be a critical leadership skill, much less, one of the two most critical skills. Why so important? Because without it, you have much less chance to see inside another person's mind. And, when you combine asking questions – the most powerful leadership skill – you have an unbeatable combination to understand people and situations better.
So, here are 5 reasons you don't listen.
1. You believe talking is important, not listening
Those who make the most noise get the most attention - "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." There are many people that make good money by speaking.
Of course, speaking is a critical part of the communication process and if you do it well, it is a valuable benefit to you and others. It is especially useful because it uses the structure of "one to many." That simply means you speak and many others can hear you.
That isn't true of listening. Listening is more private, its structure is "one to one." Even when you are with many people in a large crowd, the speaker's words are one to one to your ears. They are, therefore, personal to you as the listener.
Because of the nature of listening, it seems less important than speaking. But as you know, when someone really listens to you, it is valuable.
2. You believe you know more than they know
“A little learning is a dangerous thing” and most often a lot of learning is worse when it comes to listening. You fall into a trap when you think they don't have much to contribute or they really don't know the topic. It is especially bad when you believe you know more than they do.
That thinking encourages you to discount people and what they say. That happens even more when you do not value people and different ideas. When you aren't curious about what they know, you demonstrate poor leadership skills.
3. You think while others are talking
Your brain processes information 5 to 6 times faster than a person speaks. It is very easy to stop listening and start thinking about what you want to say, or think about your next question.
On the positive side, that demonstrates that you have a huge additional capacity to concentrate on what they say. Yes, you process 5 to 6 times faster than they can speak, so put that additional capacity into "picturing" their words. In other words, watch a video of what they say. Your brain is wired to do that! And when you picture what they say, you expand your ability to understand them. Additionally, it gives you much better questions to ask.
4. You aren’t teachable/humble
That is the biggest problem for all relationships and leadership is a key relationship. You not only "make everything about ME", you may easily believe you are more important. Of course, few admit that reality, but, admitted or not, it leads to lack of attention on others.
Humility is one of the six critical leadership values for GR8 Leaders. And, it is the first element in the formula for listening. You will not listen when you aren't humble, focused, and curious about the other person.
5. People don't speak clearly
Not all of the problem is you the listener. Poor speakers make it difficult on listeners. That means when you become an Observational Listener, you help the communication process when you ask questions that help clarify what the speaker is saying, if you have access to them.
If you want to improve your listening, it takes discipline and energy!