Whether you’re having a one-on-one consultation or a large meeting, here’s how to use your time effectively by listening:
- Don’t multitask. Multitasking means you are not paying full attention to what the other person is saying. Drinking water or taking notes is okay, but other tasks should be reserved for another time. If you need the speaker to slow down, politely ask them to do so. You’ll understand them more clearly, and retain what they said the first time you hear it, which eliminates the need for a recap.
- Look at the person who is speaking. It’s not only polite, it allows you to pick up on nonverbal communication. You can read cues to see whether the speaker is feeling nervous, inspired, frustrated, or vindicated. You’re less likely to be blindsided by conflict if you can read the emotions in a room and respond proactively.
- Listening is not just waiting for your turn. If you have something to say and someone else is speaking, of course you need to wait your turn. But you shouldn’t just be waiting your turn. You should be hearing what the other person is saying, and considering how your point builds of theirs. How does what they’re saying shed light on what you are thinking? How does it change what you have to contribute?
- Verify. When you actively listen, you come up with questions. Ask questions to verify that you understand the speaker. This ensures you’re on the same page, which is the very definition of a productive meeting. It makes following up go much more smoothly.
Slowing down seems counterintuitive in a fast-paced, competitive business world; and yet slowing down is the key to effective listening. You’ll save time and money by listening well to your team members, clients, and other stakeholders.