Recently, i had the opportunity to conduct an interactive workshop/training session that focuses on Project Management Fundamental Techniques.
There were participants from the Hotel Industry as well as some from the Road Construction/Development Sector.
A few days after the session, I got an email from the supervisor of the participants who came from the hotel industry. A very strong worded email that showed her being disappointed with the feedback she received from her staff. Complaining in her own right that her staff were unable to gather much information from the 2 day workshop and that she feel's she wasted her organizations money sending them to us for training.
I was staggered! She told me her staff were only able to recall the practical session on MS Project but have no understanding of the theory that was covered on the 5 phases of Project Management.
My students had not really been paying attention properly, and had not been making notes.
Perhaps they had expected more in the way of handouts or something, and were lazily relying on that, but they clearly hadn’t been listening properly!
And this is a common problem.
Poor listening skills could be costing your business more money than you think. A lack of communication, whether between two people, different departments or with clients, will adversely impact your productivity and can damage your reputation – and your bottom line!
In addition to hurting your core business, poor communication can often result in conflicts and misunderstandings between colleagues, and can tank your team morale.
Low morale? Low productivity, high turnover and a general feeling of malaise amongst your team.
So, it's important to do a regular ‘health check’ on your listening skills, and one of the best ways to do this is by assessing some of the most common barriers to effective listening.
Once you have identified how you react to these barriers, you can identify the best ways to overcome them in your business and personal life.
5 Barriers to effective listening
1. You find yourself distracted by a variety of factors
At times, we are all guilty of paying more attention to our smartphone or email than the person who is speaking to us, but technical devices are not the only distractions we face.
You might be caught up thinking about another matter, be distracted by something going on behind them, struggling with a headache, or be ruminating about something they said ten minutes ago – this will all impact your ability to listen.
Whether your distraction is physical, mental, visual or auditory, you can overcome it.
Try the following tips:
2. You regularly interrupt the other party
Nothing will make a speaker feel disrespected more than being constantly interrupted by their listener.
While a conversation should be an equal ‘2 way street,’ it can be easy to accidentally monopolise the conversation and interject your opinions.
When you do this too often, you will miss the nuances of what the other party is trying to communicate (not to mention sending the message that you don’t care about what they have to say).
Here are the best ways to overcome your desire to interrupt:
3. You bring your emotions into the situation
We all experience times when another person’s viewpoints can get our hackles up. They can cause us to feel angry, defensive or minimised. Once you start to feel attacked or called out (even if this is not actually the case), you’re likely to shut down and stop listening to the other party.
If you have a past personal issue with the speaker, the situation can feel even more fraught with emotions.
Try these tips to overcome an overly emotional reaction.
4. You are trying to have a conversation in a noisy environment
While it is quite trendy to have meetings in coffee shops or in bustling co-working spaces, these locations can be quite noisy!
Noise is an obvious distraction that can really make it difficult to properly hear the words that the other person is saying, let alone actually absorb what they are trying to convey.
Need to overcome this problem? Try the following.
5. You find your mind wandering when listening to the other party
It's a few minutes to lunchtime and you’re flagging, struggling to pay attention. You’re actually thinking about what sandwich to order.
When your mind wanders onto other subjects, you can end up ‘faking attention’ – sure, you hear what they are saying, but you are not listening and absorbing what they want to tell you. While you might think that the other person is none the wiser, they can often tell that they don’t have your full attention and that you are ‘faking’ it. Try doing the following instead:
Listen attentively, and try to focus on each of the words they are saying. Even if you’re their boss, assume that they have information that you don’t.
Now, I’m not sure where my student's went wrong. Our classes receive good reviews and this was one of those that really made me question my delivery methods. Which is just the point, even good listeners sometimes listen badly, for different reasons.
I’m sure that next time, they’ll be listening a whole lot better. And if you follow these tips, you can do too!
And, if you found the above points helpful, consider hosting a staff meeting to discuss how you can all benefit from this information. An organisation that values listening is an organisation on the right track.