Many leaders think that effective communication means talking a lot. Perhaps you've worked with someone who is in love with the sound of his or her voice and rarely lets people join the conversation or share their ideas. All you hear is the sound of one person talking.
Communication is over 90% non-verbal, which suggests that talking is just a small part of what we're supposed to be doing, yet many people continue to talk until everyone's exhausted. It's as if they wake up each day ready to talk at everyone instead of learning about others. They spend their time telling everyone about themselves and their perspective rather than learning about others.
Think about your own communication style: Do you talk or listen more? Effective communicators understand that interacting with people is as much about understanding someone else's point of view as it is putting their own ideas into the mix. The key is to understand when you're talking too much and might benefit from adding some listening.
Here are some practical tips to help you practice effective workplace communication:
- Listen more than you talk.
- Ask open-ended questions when you don't understand something the other person is saying, not to interject your thoughts.
- Focus on the other person rather than thinking of the next thing you want to say.
- Stay away from trying to rebut or contradict the other person.
- Avoid asking questions that lead to a yes or no answer or steer the conversation in a pre-determined direction.
- Allow people the time and space to say what they want to say.
- Listen actively by paying close attention to the other person and trying to understand what he or she is saying without adding your point of view.
- Did I mention listening?
Listening is so frequently ignored in the workplace that leaders can spend their entire careers talking over people. What they may not realize is that they can lead more effectively when they take the time to really listen to others. Listening offers them an opportunity to understand people better and make decisions based on deeper information. They avoid misunderstandings and connect with people on a more meaningful level.
Listening improves your work life because it allows you to breathe. You don't have to talk all the time and work hard to fill up space. You don't have to think of the next brilliant thing you want to say. You get to sit back, relax and encourage others to share their ideas. You'll build trust and encourage people to participate in the conversation. What will you do to listen more in your workplace?