NEW DELHI: Picture this very common scene: An executive goes over to his supervisor’s cabin to share details of a meeting he just had with a client. As he enters after taking permission, the supervisor signals with his hand for him to start speaking. However, as he starts speaking, the supervisor starts reading the file on his table and starts scribbling notes on that file. The executive continues for a moment, he then becomes confused that perhaps his supervisor is busy and stops speaking. Supervisor asks him to continue — he starts again only to find his supervisor now reaching for his intercom, with his glance still on the file. The executive stops and leaves the room feeling angry and frustrated.
It is quite likely that this supervisor is a busy man with various deadlines — he probably wanted to multitask so as to optimise time and had no intentions of hurting or disrespecting the executive. However, this action of his, left the executive feeling rejected, dejected and de-motivated.
If this happens again and again, it is quite possible that the self esteem of this executive would be hurt. He might feel insulted and humiliated and may decide to stop sharing information with the supervisor or even talk to him.
The solution to the problem lies in ‘Active Listening’.
The following points can help us become active listeners:
1. Give undivided attention: When someone is speaking to you, stop reading the newspaper, or working on the computer or reading the file — just leave things and listen. In case you are tied up and need a few moments before you can do this, it is better to take time to free yourself first. When the other person starts speaking, give undivided attention.
2. Avoid interrupting: It is important to listen first and not talk — so make sure you allow the person to finish first. Check the urge to butt in with questions and clarifications or advice. Even if you know the solution in advance, you want the other person to feel assured and reassured that his problem has been understood properly. Allow him to finish without interruptions.
3. Eye contact: We listen not only with ears but with our eyes as well. So make sure you connect with the other person through eye contact. This will not only assure the person that you are listening , but will also enable you to understand the other person better.
4. Give visible cues: Let the person know that you are listening. Verbal and non verbal signals like nodding, grunting, taking notes, saying ‘Okay’ , ‘I understand’, et cetera builds confidence in the speaker that whatever he is sharing is not only being listened to, but is also being understood.
5. Ask questions: Do ask questions if required. How-ever do so after the person has finished speaking. The manner of questioning should
be indicative of interest and understanding and not invest-igative or interrogative.
6. Summarise: If it has been a long discussion, summarise the main points. This helps in two ways — on the one hand it ensures that you have understood everything correctly and on the other it reassures the speaker that you have actually been listening.
7. Empathise: It is important to be sincere, serious and understanding — make the person feel you are with him. Give suggestions or solutions or directions as requested or required. Help him achieve his objective for which he came.
(The author is a learning and development consultant and the chief synergist at Kiai Peoplez Solutions at Delhi. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)