011: How To Become A Better Listener To Inspire Productivity

As a leader, every relationship that you have is based on your ability to effectively communicate. This is true in leading a nonprofit, a family or a group of people on the job. Communication is more than just sending and receiving information; it’s about understanding the emotion behind the information. The key to any healthy relationship is found in mutual understanding. Learning how to become a better listener will increase the productivity of any nonprofit leadership team. Listening helps you and your team make better decisions and improves problem solving. It allows difficult topics to be discussed without creating unnecessary conflicts. The bottom line is that you get more done, with less frustration. Actual conflicts can then be approached more objectively.

Cultivating The Right Atmosphere

How often have you entered into a conversation that escalated into a heated debate, only to realize later that it was due to a miscommunication or a misinterpretation? Learning to be a better listener doesn’t mean that it will never happen again, but it might not happen as often. Creating an atmosphere where ideas and opinions can be freely shared can be a challenge, but it is rewarding. Cultivating good communication leads to resolving conflicts quicker, discussing problems more openly and mutual respect is maintained.

The Components of Communication

Even though talking seems like a simple thing to do, much of what you try to communicate to others and what they try to communicate to you, can be misunderstood. When this happens, it can cause unnecessary conflicts, irritations and frustrations. By learning a few simple communication skills, you can relate to others better. Meaningful communication is really made up of several components. These are more than just simply speaking and hearing, but also incorporates nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication includes listening attentively, recognizing and managing your own stress, and understanding your emotions, as well as, the emotions of the other person.

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Becoming a better listener is the key to effective communication. If the other person can sense that you are listening to them, and attempting to understand them a much deeper connection is created. This opens the door for them to freely express their feelings, ideas and opinions. It creates an environment of creativity, plans can be discussed and solutions can be quickly created. Imagine how many misunderstandings and conflicts could be avoided if people could sense that they are being heard.

Four Ways To Be A Better Listener

Give the other person your full attention. Listen not only to the words, but to how they are communicating non-verbally. Pay attention to their inflection and body language. Listen beyond the words and try to hear what they are saying from their heart. You’ll miss all that if you are looking around the room, checking email, text messages, Facebook updates and Twitter feeds.

Don’t interrupt or divert the conversation. Believe it or not most people can tell when you’re just waiting for them to shut up so you can talk. They can see your facial expression and know that the “wheels are turning” in your head. To them this signals that the conversation is over and communication has ended.

Display interest by your body language. Show the other person that you are interested in what they have to say. Try nodding to acknowledge that you are understanding what they are saying. This doesn’t mean you agree with them, just that you are following their line of thought. Watch your own body language. Does it demonstrate that you are open or that you are closed off? What about your facial expression? Are you scowling or smiling at the person? Try to encourage others to continue their explanation with occasional verbal acknowledgments that indicate that you are listening .

Listen objectively and hear them out. Being a better listener doesn’t imply that you agree with the person, nor does it mean that you like their opinions or ideas. In order to maintain mutual respect, make sure that others can express their point of view in a receptive environment. After you have heard them out, try repeating it back to them in your own words, to make sure you understand them correctly.

Becoming a better listener, means that you will speak less, slow the conversation down and focus on what is in front of you at that moment. In a fast paced world we need better listeners now more than ever.  Learning to listen will inspire better teamwork, create better decision making, improve problem solving and eliminate unnecessary conflicts.