“Listen Like a Master”: Tips from PeopleG2’s Chris Dyer

Written By: Chris Dyer, CEO of PeopleG2

Tune in for our upcoming free webinar with PeopleG2, “The Truth About Background Checks” on June 29th. Register here.

Being a great listener and having a company filled with listeners, is the ultimate weapon if you aspire for greatness at your staffing firm.

Every person at every level in every department raises their value and effectiveness of the company based on their ability to listen. People tend to have a great deal of overconfidence with this skill. Being a good listener is not only something you learn, but a skill that must be sharpened and homed in each interaction and conversation we have.

Many years ago, I was invited to participate in a high-level CEO group. Although similar to Vistage and other groups where leaders come together on a monthly basis, this group is intense and unapologetic in its members opinions and suggestions for your business. In my first year of being a member of the group, I felt like a young child being tossed into a college level class. I didn’t know the lingo, my experience level was well behind them and my thoughts were too tactical and not strategic enough.

This was exactly the kind of training ground needed for me to grow and test new ideas. Here, I could expand my knowledge.

Over that first year I noticed some patterns about the members I admired most. These masters seemed to be the most successful over the course of their career. Being one of the younger members, I had much to learn.

The best of the best in that room of CEOs were open, honest, open about failures, open to new ideas and change and most importantly, great listeners. It was not uncommon for them to sit quietly while they listened, captivated, to other members. They may have taken notes or asked for clarification occasionally, but they were highly focused on each member as they spoke. It was rare to see them on their phone, computer, or doing anything else that might have taken their attention away from the conversation. This was in stark contrast to other members that attempted to join the group, who were always distracted, talking constantly, inserting their opinion repetitively and failing to grasp the true, underlying factors of the issue at hand.

The best listeners hardly spoke and when they did, it was impactful. In my head, I began referring to these members as listening ninjas. They seemed to have a disciple and training I did not. They seemed to see right through some the most complex issues with razor sharp clarity. Remembering that old saying by Epictetus: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”, I tried desperately to follow that motto. In time, I was able to formulate a list to help anyone become a better listener. Here it is:

  • Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply. Take Stephen Covey’s advice and remove the desire to reply.  Your response will come to you naturally, when the other person has finished.  Take notes if you need help remembering key points or topics.  When you really get into the zone of this process, a few things start to happen. First, you will find a deeper understanding into what the other person is saying. Second, the other person will feel they have been heard. Often people are afraid to let silence or a moment of contemplation to occur once the other person finishes. To look smart or attentive, we often have this pressure to interject or respond immediately. The listening masters in my life all seem perfectly calm as they take the time they need to think and consider what they just heard. It is powerful to watch.
  • Repeat back what you heard. Especially if the conversation is complicated or emotional, before you respond, take a moment to repeat back a summary of what you heard. Use this opportunity to show them you were listening and to ensure you did not miss anything. When I do this, the other person usually reminds me of a detail that I forgot, or they forgot to tell me.  Acknowledge them for any clarifications, or apologize if you missed something significant. Remember, listening is about your own comprehension, and ensuring the other person feels heard.
  • Challenge your thinking. As you reflect and begin to formulate a response, take a quick moment to understand why you are reacting internally in your current state. If you are angry, sad, or offended, is it justified? Conversely, if you are happy, excited, or joyous are those feelings justified? Should you dig deeper with questions to ensure you are correct? It is important to ensure you response is not flawed by something triggered by something unrelated.
  • Remove Distractions. Put down your phone, find a quiet place to have a conversation, and clear your mind of other concerns. Be honest if that moment in time will not allow you to truly listen. The people in your life will appreciate the honesty. Just ensure you schedule a time or circle back to that conversation soon. If you are like me, something along the way might distract you mid-conversation. Just apologize and ask them to back up if you get distracted. We are not perfect and being a good listener demands we adjust when things are not right.
  • Meditation and Mindfulness. Consider mediation or other scheduled break in the day to allow your brain to reset and calm down. One of my go-to apps and websites is: https://brain.fm.  This site allows you to choose a program that runs in your headphones to help you meditate, relax, sleep, focus, and nap. There are many apps and programs to choose from. It is no surprise that some of the most success people in the world all point to this practice mindfulness as part of their success. The brain needs time during the day to get caught up and to bring us back into harmony. If you get overwhelmed as the day goes on and find it harder and harder to listen, this could be the way to help.
  • Likeability. Be careful not to discount what someone is saying, just because you don’t like them. Unless that person has proven to be unethical or inappropriate, you might be failing to be a good listener just because you are not friends. This is also true of people you don’t yet know. We all have people in our lives that we respect and work with, but are not going to call on the weekend to hang out. Make sure you are not discounting their message in this context.
  • Manage your time. Set a fixed amount of time to listen to the person or to have a meeting. It is easy to stop listening if we are worried about other things.  When you designate a fixed amount of time, you are free to relax and not worry about other pressing items.
  • Natural Style. Understanding your natural style by taking a personality assessment can help you spot situations and habits where you struggle. I prefer a DISC profile, and you can get a free copy of this at https://tonyrobbins.com/disc. Whatever assessment you choose, dive deep into the areas that impact your ability to listen.
  • Know your audience. Should you find yourself in an unfamiliar setting, research any cultural differences before starting. This might happen in a different country, or just inside a different department. Knowing the tendencies of your audience when you have little to know context, can really help. For example, in some cultures, it is rude to say no. It is also rude to contradict someone or correct them. You will need to know what rules of engagement could be different in an unfamiliar setting.

Take a shot at being a better listener, and watch your influence, success and happiness grow!

Written By: Chris Dyer, CEO of PeopleG2

Tune in for our upcoming free webinar with Chris and PeopleG2, “The Truth About Background Checks”, on June 29th. Register here.

*This blog post was written as a part of the Avionté Staffing Software‘s Partner Content Series.

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