You Can’t Fake Listening

One of the most underestimated skills for influential leadership is true listening. Whether we are listening face-to-face, on the phone or on a virtual call, the person on the receiver end of a communication holds a very important listening space for the speaker. Even if they think they are fooling the speaker, they are sadly mistaken. A speaker can pick up a non-listening leader in a nano second.

I challenge each of you to think about a conversation you had recently that just didn’t feel right. In fact, you may even have tried to convince yourself that the person you were sharing your incredibly moving story to was paying close attention. Yet, your radar went off and you reluctantly accepted the fact that your colleague was doing anything but active listening. How did you know? What red flags went up to alert you that you were not being listened to with depth?

Even in our personal lives we can sense when someone isn’t connecting to our conversation. We can feel a distancing or “out of touch” reaction that can make us frustrated or angry. Relationships cannot survive with shallow listening. How many times have you expressed, “Please, just listen to what I am saying”.

You can’t fake listening because:

1. People Feel Unheard

The very premise of any communication is the desire to speak the truth about an issue. However, if the person presenting sees the other person on the other end multitasking and not listening completely, they walk away feeling unheard. What that can lead to is a breaking down of trust and feeling unvalued. Even when leaders disagree with a colleague, they need to fully listen by giving others their full attention. Shutting down before a two-sided conversation happens shouts out, “I don’t care to hear you out”.

2. Misunderstandings Occur

When leaders pretend to listen without being super focused, unnecessary mistakes and misunderstandings can result. This unfortunately is commonplace especially in our busy work worlds. To help leaders delve deeper into a conversation they:

  • Ask open-ended questions (Who, What, Where, How, Why).
  • Get curious about what the speaker is offering.
  • Clarify to make sure everyone is on the same page.

3. Relationships Are On The Line

Leaders build relationships based on trust and honesty and that means listening to the points that others are making with sincerity. When we jump to conclusions before we understand the needs of others we are showing that they don’t matter. How many times have you tried to complete the sentences or thoughts of a person’s conversation and been wrong? If we had only allowed the person to complete their message entirely, we would have realized they were heading in a different direction. Reminding ourselves to stay quiet and be patient will elevate any relationship. Honor what others have to say.

4. Leaders Will Not Be Impactful

If it becomes clear that we are only half-listening to what others are saying, we will never be taken seriously as a strong leader. Quickly, the people we work with will not want to share their ideas because they don’t believe we will listen to really understand. Before we know it, we will be “out of the loop” of information sharing. So to create authentic listening:

  • Set the right amount of time to listen to others.
  • Stay in the conversation by asking relevant and insightful questions.
  • Listen with your whole body and listen to their whole body.

How do you make sure you are not fake listening?

Related: Five Delicious Ingredients To Add to Your Leadership Cake