Have you ever found yourself in office conversations with colleagues where your mind is wandering and you are counting down to when you can escape? I know I have, and not just colleagues either. I find myself thinking about a blog post or a time when the ‘same thing’ happened to me. Sometimes I am distracted by something else going on behind the person or by my stomach rumbling as it’s lunchtime. Whatever it is, I am not paying attention 100% of the time.
Conversations which occur in the office are slightly different to those outside of work as there are often hidden agendas behind them; from you and the person you are speaking with. Perhaps you are terrified they are going to give you some ‘constructive criticism’ or maybe you are wondering what they want from you. You may have targeted them as part of your career development plan or could it be you trying to build (mutually beneficial) relationships.
In addition to all of this, there is the fact that you sometimes have to have conversations with people you don’t get on with on a personal level but are required to work with professionally. So, how to make your conversations as productive as possible? The easy answer is by listening. But how can you build effective working relationships through listening?
Prepare to be amazed
Seriously, that’s the answer – prepare to be amazed. If you go into a conversation open-minded and curious about what they might say next then it is much more interesting. If you are interested in what the other person is saying then it’s easier to listen, less distracting and therefore you gain more connection. Connection brings trust and also respect. You may even find you have something in common with the person you are listening to. The other benefit is you don’t have to worry about looking interested…because you are interested in what they are saying.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” –Stephen R. Covey
Listening with the intent to understand is hard work, it requires effort and in a long conversation can be tiring…but, it’s worth it. Allow the thoughts and distractions to pop into your head and then pop out again. I assure you, if they are important, you will remember them.
The benefits of listening in building relationships
Listening allows us to:
- Gain information
- Build trust
- Improve our communication skills
- Build authentic relationships
How? When we listening without interrupting, passing judgement or offering advice we are seen as someone who cares. More importantly, if we didn’t care before, we start to care, allowing us to respond appropriately and with empathy. A win-win situation.
Listening for our career development
These skills are vital in our career development. Whether you are starting out or you are well established in your career it’s never too early/late to start listening. If you are an employer, a leader or a manager (or aspiring to be one) then listening is even more critical for the productivity and wellbeing of those you manage and for your own career progression.
Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people with nothing to say – Andy Stanley
Perhaps we will leave that for another day…? Come back next week to find out more about leadership and listening.