Being a good listener has never been harder. You are constantly barraged with information: notifications, reminders, ringing phones, binging emails—and people expect answers immediately.
What can you do to clear enough space through all this noise in order to focus and hear what's being said to you? Here's a simple, but not easy, method to help you listen more effectively.
STOP DROP and ROLE
Let's take this step by step.
Remember how annoying it is when you are talking to someone and that person is completely distracted—looking at email, playing Words with Friends, reading tweets or worse? Have you ever been guilty of the same? Sad to say, I have.
The only way to keep from doing this yourself is to remember to STOP everything else so that you can focus and listen. This is especially critical during meetings and important conversations.
Turn off your phone—not just switch it on silent. Even on silent, the vibrations will still take away your attention.
Close your laptop, turn off your computer, turn over your sudoku. Clear your desk of anything that might take your attention away from the person you are speaking to.
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you interrupted them by trying to finish their sentence?
Have you ever been in a conversation and were surprised to learn that where someone stands on an issue isn't at all what you expected?
Have you ever left a meeting believing that you were all in agreement only to find out later that what you thought was agreed on wasn't?
These things happen all the time.
Our brains are wired to see patterns and make assumptions based on what we already know. When we are listening, we are always filtering what people are saying through our assumptions and prejudices. Although everyone does this, the problem is that those assumptions are not always true and they get in the way of really listening. It keeps us from hearing what the other person is saying.
DROP your prejudices, preconceptions and assumptions when you are listening. A good way to do this is to constantly ask questions. This helps you make sure that what you think you are hearing is what is actually being said. Questions kill assumptions. Do your best to use open questions (who, what, where, when, why, how, tell me more, explain to me…) to help yourself really listen.
The last step is ROLE.
Reconsider your role in the conversation:
It is NOT to "one up" the person.
It is NOT to finish sentences.
It is NOT to share your story.
Your role is to hear and understand what the other person has to say and to make sure that you leave with a full comprehension of what they want to communicate.
STOP DROP and ROLE
STOP: Be sure to stop all other activities.
DROP: Drop your assumptions and prejudices.
ROLE: Remember your role in the conversation.
Try it in your next conversation and your communication and comprehension will improve exponentially.