Can you learn to listen better? Some skills are easier to learn than others. Listening skills are actually pretty easy to understand and adopt, but sustaining a change in something you initially learned years ago…not so easy!
All learning is made easier when we have an awareness of the gap between how skilled we are and what proficiency we desire. What can you do to calibrate the listening gap?
One way is by asking others what they would like to see you do differently. This may actually be the hardest part for many of us. Our suggestion is to start this discovery process with someone you have a great relationship with and the where risk for damaging your rapport is low.
Obviously, when we ask someone that we have a great relationship with for help, they may only give us superlatives. Patiently rephrase your question and show that you really want their help and they might share an idea or two. Caution! A good friend may help you understand that you have a listening gap, but their suggestions for improvement may be laden with their own bad habits. (Of course, that’s where we think our book comes in!)
Take some time to consider the benefit of making a change. This will help motivate you to stick with some new behaviors. Ask yourself: What would this do for my ability to communicate better? What impact could this have on the stress I am feeling? In what way will improved listening skills change perceptions others have of my ability to lead, influence others, work collaboratively, solve problems, respond to a crisis, work with peers…
Awareness and motivation are important. So is getting the right skills in place. We believe you will have the greatest success if you understand some theory, adopt some basic skills, apply those skills in very specific situations, review what you learned from those test runs and then solidify your gains.
Let’s be honest. You can learn these skills almost overnight. But to make these new skills part of your everyday communication and sustain that change, you need lots of practice. In our coaching experience, we’ve found that it takes 4 to 8 months to measure the listening gap, learn new skills and then practice them enough to sustain new behaviors.
Awareness. Motivation. Practice.
What are your thoughts?