C-Suite Network™

Three High-Performance Listening Skills Great Leaders Embrace

It was a Friday evening and I was out with a small group of my friends at a Happy Hour. We were all seated around a table sharing stories over drinks and appetizers. Throughout most of the evening, one of the guys in our party was on his cellphone working a real-estate deal and talking to one of his team members who was sitting across the table. Andrew was so involved in his business that he didn’t even lift his head up from the phone but would randomly interject a word in here and there, claiming he was totally present and listening.  Of course until he realized that wasn’t 100% true when his wife had to call his name a couple of times to get his attention for a group picture…

How often have you found yourself in a similar situation?

You were engaged in a conversation and the technology had become a distraction during the conversation especially when attempting to establish rapport with another human being.

“Listening is fundamental in building rapport with others.  We all have bad habits that can cause us to break rapport and lose the connection with the other person.”
  (From Power Conversations Tip #3 I know You Hear Me)

Let’s look at three common habits that cause us to break rapport and find out what to do instead in order to fix them and become more powerful communicators

  • Interrupting the speaker
  • Making up your mind before all the info is presented
  • Showing Impatience when a person speaks at length

Interrupting the speaker

How many times have you found yourself in a conversation where you, or someone else really, really needed to say something right then, right there and it just couldn’t wait until the speaker was done? Most of us were brought up knowing that it’s important to let others finish their thoughts.                   An interruption is saying “what I have to say is more important than what you have to say.” Ultimately saying “I’m more important than you”.  I would venture to say you probably don’t really think that.

If you have something that you have to say and think you might forget, write it down or politely ask the other person to have them remind you to bring up the topic once they are done speaking.  If you or someone you know happens to be a chronic interrupter, have them busy themselves by doing something else instead in order to break the habit.
I once had a client in a training that was a chronic interrupter. Since she was very high energy like a cheerleader, she decided to drink water every time she felt the need to interrupt. Needless to say while she reported to me that the solution worked, she had become very well hydrated…

Making up your mind before all the info is presented

Somewhere along the line you tuned out the speaker and dove into your own thoughts. That’s what we call an internal distraction.  When that happens, you risk missing out on important information and only hearing parts of a discussion which could lead you down the path of wrong conclusions and assumptions. As a result you could end up in conflict and that does not an example of good leadership.

Instead, be sure to remain present the entire time, focus on the speaker, and ask questions to clarify any points that you are unsure about. Whether you are a quick thinker or a slow processor remain engaged, showing the speaker that they are being heard and valued.

Showing Impatience when a person speaks at length

Let’s face it, different people communicate differently.  While some are story tellers who share every little detail, others might be direct, factual and brief.  Often people who are high-performers want the big idea and quick facts and will show impatience when the speaker goes on and on. That might entail looking at your watch, gesturing someone to hurry with hand motions or even at time flat out saying something like “get to the point”.  Those are all rapport breakers that are offensive to the speaker, yet at times we truly want someone to get to the point. How do we convey that without being rude?

Back when I was in private practice and had to take a medical history on all new patients, I would come across the long story tellers. It was common with those who experienced traumatic injuries like a fall or a car accident and were more of the emotional type. While it was important as a doctor to have empathy and understand their emotional and physical distress, all I needed in order to treat them properly were the facts of the accident like speed, directions, and point of impact.

My solution and was to find the right opening, state their name, repeat something they had said and check for accuracy with a yes/no question. I then moved to the next question. Ex. “Harvey, I want to make sure that I got this correctly, you were making a left at the light and a car came from across the intersection and hit your back passenger side? Is that correct? OK. What happened next?”

By using that technique not only will you able to manage the pace of the conversation but you will be actively engaged in listening to the details making the speaker feel heard and valued, which is the goal.

As an active listener you will use different skills to show interest in the speaker and build rapport with them. As a High-Performer leader you will spend more of your time engaged in Active listening.

While Andrew is clearly a hard working individual he could benefit from improved High-Performance Communication skills, specifically Active Listening to make him an even more powerful leader.
What about you??  Are you ready to uplevel your game and improve your communication skills?

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