Artisan Creative is celebrating 20+ years in staffing and recruitment of creative professionals. Over the years we have learned a thing or two that we’d like to share with you. We hope you enjoy the 419th issue of our weekly a.blog.
MIA: When in conversation, do you listen, or do you just wait to talk?
VINCENT: I wait to talk. But I’m trying to listen.
–Pulp Fiction, 1994
Active listening requires that we set aside our own egos and imperatives as we listen to another person speak, in order to be fully engaged with what that person is communicating, both verbally and nonverbally.
When done in good faith, active listening gives rise to an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual respect. At work, it can help mitigate conflicts and facilitate better teamwork and higher morale.
When listening actively, use these five principles until they become second nature. Don’t worry too much about whether or not you’re doing it correctly. Simply open yourself up to the conversation before you.
1. Notice body language and sub-communication
Communication is about much more than what is said out loud.
In order to really listen, you must get beyond the stated facts and pick up on the tone and emotions behind them. The same speech can have two entirely different meanings depending on whether it is delivered with self-assurance, with a knowing smirk, or with lots of filler words (“like,” “um”), crossed arms, and erratic eye contact.
To actively listen, stay open, withhold judgment, and take in the sum of the spoken and unspoken communication.
2. Repeat, rephrase and ask questions
Before you respond, make sure you understand what has been said.
You can do this by repeating the speaker’s key points, and restating them in your own words. This will give the person an opportunity to clarify or add more information. This way, before you respond, you can be fairly sure you fully comprehend the other person’s point.
Before you offer a rebuttal, ask thoughtful, open-ended questions to clear up any lingering misconceptions. This can open a productive conversation and lead into fruitful areas of discussion neither one of you anticipated.
3. If you get lost, start over
Have you ever been having a conversation and suddenly realized the other person had been talking for a long time and you stopped paying attention some time ago? It’s okay to admit it.
Just be honest. Say, “I think I lost you back there somewhere. I was with you up to a point. Would you mind clarifying this one area?” Make sure you are getting all the information you need to hear and understand the speaker in context.
If you are indeed listening in good faith, pay attention to what is being said, keep up with the content as it’s shared, and quiet your own inner voice.
4. Don’t rehearse or think ahead – stay in the moment
When you’re ready to listen, take a deep breath, and take a moment to let go of your own thoughts, opinions, ideas and perspective. Be fully present with the other person’s experience. Perceive their feelings and get to know the human behind the voice.
If you begin formulating a response while you are pretending to listen, you are bound to miss important subtext and implications. You risk sounding dismissive or defensive. People can tell when you aren’t listening. Don’t interrupt. Wait your turn. Listen to others the way you would have them listen to you.
The best way to connect, listen and learn is via genuine curiosity about other people’s experiences and to have empathy.
Empathy is a learned skill that requires constant honing. Practice active listening, and you may find that other people’s experiences resonate with you far more than you ever expected. You may discover a spirit of cooperation within yourself that you may have been too nervous, defensive, or distracted to appreciate before.
At Artisan Creative, active listening is the key to creating trusted relationships with our talent and clients.