Listening skills, which includes the use of silence, is something many of us need to improve upon. I have been doing some reading in order to improve my consulting skills. I read a post by consultant Alistair MacPherson, writer of Clientonomy, entitled Improve Listening Skills to Win More Clients. He makes three points that I think are important to remember. These are:
- Deploy silence, as a question.
- Listen, precisely, what is being said.
- Listen, precisely, to what is NOT being said.
As I read Mac’s post I said to myself “Self, while he is talking about selling to clients, this is directly applicable to supervisors and managers communicating with employees.” Many of us who have been in managerial positions have a tendency to TELL instead of listening. We cannot keep our mouths shut. We fill in the voids of silence that occur in interactions with our employees. Subsequently we do not HEAR why they are late, or why they did not get that work done. We ASSUME we know the answer so we give them that answer before they can really answer our question.
I teach behavioral interviewing skills and in that class I teach the power of SILENCE in getting better answers from candidates. I teach managers to tolerate silence. Give the interviewee time to think. You get better information that way. Well the same skills apply to dealing with employees, whether conducting a performance evaluation, a disciplinary meeting, or even just a social interaction. Supervisor and managers should remember silence is actually a big part of active listening. Here are some steps for active listening:
- Pay attention (leave the computer alone, and the phone and the paperwork on your desk.)
- Show you are listening. (This is the SILENCE part. But don’t sit there like a rock. Nod, blink, make eye contact.)
- Provide feedback. (These are verbal cues that you are listening but don’t involve alot of talking.)
- Defer judgement. (If you jump in with a judgement you will get no further information.)
- Respond appropriately. (This response may include asking another question and listening all over again.)
Here is an additional link on improving your listening skills. Practice these skills and you will improve your skill and ability as a human resources professional, a supervisor or manager.