We’re all familiar with the fact that communication has two dimensions which are: speaking (expression) and listening (reception). Furthermore, there are four ways we communicate: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. But, what does it takes to become an excellent communicator? It is not just about speaking but also about listening. Speakers have the power to share their opinion and influence, but in the end, listeners will be the ones to who validate a message or not.
One of the greatest lessons in life is to listen with the intent to understand what is being said, instead of just listening to respond. However, listening is essential to those who want to be successful in their professional or personal life. And the best way to start listening effectively is by not talking.
There are a few questions out there, that many of you may be wondering: How many of us are really good listeners? Can we learn something by listening? The fact is, that real listeners are hard to find, but when you come across one, it is like a breath of fresh air and it gives one the satisfaction of real communication. People spend 70 to 80% of their time engaged in many different forms of communication but only 55% of them, are really listening.
Nowadays, it is easier to connect with others than before. But the question is: “Are we becoming bad at communicating?”. You might also wonder, what does this have to do with recruiting? It has everything to do with recruiting. Becoming a better listener is not as hard as it seems, but it requires commitment and effort. Still, before you go in this direction of learning how to become a better listener, remember that nobody is perfect, but being persistent and dedicated leads to improvement. There are two types of listeners: Active listeners and passive listeners.
The person who pays attention and listens to understand what the speaker has to say and also provides feedback when it’s required is an active listener. It is also the person who has the careful attention to non-verbal forms of communication such as eye contact, expressions and also hand gestures. The truth is that this skill requires a lot of practice, it is not as easy as it sounds. During an interview with a candidate or a typical conversation, the most important thing to do is be present at the moment. Allow that person/ candidate to speak, stay focused on his words instead of planning your response. Active listeners are also open-minded. They absorb what other people are saying without interruption and accepting new ideas or perspectives instead of interjecting their own opinion. Instead of jumping into conclusions, let the other person express his or her view.
Passive listeners don’t make an effort to understand what the speaker has to say. However, they can be physically present and they can hear the conversation but may be completely distracted. Their job is to sit quietly and not respond to what the speaker has to say. Picture yourself listening to music when you are doing something. Although the music is playing, you pay attention to other work. Students are constantly dealing with this type of listening. They hear the teacher, but are not attentive, therefore they do not retain the information. The former Senior VP and General manager of Nordstrom company, Betsy Sanders, said: “To learn through listening, practice it naively and actively. Naively means that you listen openly, ready to learn something, as opposed to listening defensively, ready to rebut. Listening actively means you acknowledge what you heard and act accordingly.”
How can we improve our listening skills?
Don’t look for the next thing to say, hear what the other person has to say, without planning your response. Our team of recruiters has many interviews every day and sometimes it can be challenging. If you’re a recruiter, it might be that you’ve had the perfect interview with a candidate. Therefore you are convinced that she will be the right fit for the job and you quickly screen her up by running through your checklist of questions. Scheduling the interview with the hiring manager would be the next step to take, but later you might find out that you have missed a few things which are important, and you’ll need to go back to talking with the candidate. Being engaged in the conversation and not looking for the next thing to say, will actually save you time in the long term.
Less talking more listening
People who talk too much don’t always have much to say. That doesn’t mean that they know everything. This can lead to problems. You need to know when to stop talking and start listening. In our business, meetings and interviews are very important, they give you the opportunity to learn more and improve your knowledge. “A person who’s talking is giving away information–often more than he or she intended. A person who’s listening is receiving information”.(The Medium). A few things you can avoid doing are: giving out wrong information, making wrong assumptions, and also making use of the same resources. These can make you look less intelligent than you actually are.
For recruiters as for many others, time is very valuable. Reports, emails, scheduled interviews, training other employees and many other tasks can be difficult. If you miss doing them at the right time, your projects and even your job might be at risk. But still, multitasking isn’t a superpower. Many are convinced that it helps them be more efficient and productive. Instead, it reduces your efficiency and performance. It is also slowing down your productivity and decreases the quality of your work. Let’s not forget that multitasking is affecting the quality of the conversation and also make people feel uncomfortable and unimportant, and some even angry. Instead of multitasking focus on being more organized, you will be amazed to see how many things you will do.
Always maintain eye contact with the speaker
You don’t have to stare at the speaker, you can look away now and then acting normal, but still be attentive. Picture yourself in a meeting, when your project manager has a presentation and you are distracted by your phone, or computer. Are you consciously taking that information in? You might create an uncomfortable situation. When you allow your mind to be distracted, those around you will notice it. Always maintain eye contact during a conversation, it is the most essential aspect of effective communication. Also, making eye contact with your listeners establishes a connection with them and conveys confidence and honesty.
Interrupting and imposing solutions
We all know how that interrupting someone during a conversation is rude. If one of your clients is presenting their problem, refrain talking about your solution until the end. Try to listen before you talk. If they need your help or advice, they’ll ask. Keep your ideas until the end and ask the speaker’s permission if he would like to hear about them. More than often, this is just basic communication courtesy, and most will not refuse. Although it is important if you are often interrupted during your speech, something might be wrong with it. Did you get the listeners attention, did you miss anything? Try figure it out, what didn’t work? Dealing with this kind of situation is challenging and requires a lot of practice, interruptions are not exceptions.
One of the simplest ways to become a better listener is to ask more questions than you can answer. You can also create a safe space for others to be honest with you. Questions not only make you look smarter but also show that you are interested. It is also helpful when you are in doubt, to clear up misunderstandings. Wait for the speaker to pause, though, then ask the clarifying questions.
Being empathic allows you to feel the same as the speaker does. You also give others permission to be relatable. Don’t forget to express joy when your speaker expresses happiness, and sadness when the other person is sad. To experience empathy, you need to put yourself in the other person’s place. It takes determination and concentration. But in the end, it is the best thing you can do in communication.
One great way to become a good listener is to summarize what the other person just said. This can help you understand what really happened. You can avoid any misunderstanding that could lead to frustration. Instead of making assumptions, summarizing helps you add your perspective, thoughts or even questions about what’s being said or not. We all have meetings, important conversations, and informal chats. Regardless of the person in front of you, wanting to understand what they’re really saying will go a long way. Listen carefully and write down only the essential words without adding any personal opinions.
According to the great psychotherapist, Carl Rogers, the major barrier in communication is our very natural inclination to judge, to approve or disapprove and to evaluate the disclosure of the other person or the other group. However, this evaluative tendency can be avoided when we listen to understand. “It means to see the expressed idea and attitude from the other person’s point of view, to sense how it feels to him, to achieve his frame of reference in regard to the thing he is talking about.”
A good listener is patient, attentive, responsive, curious, provides constructive feedback, is empathic, shows interest to the speaker as a person, is open-minded, doesn’t criticize and is nonjudgmental. Mastering the art of listening is a tremendous ability! Nonetheless, becoming a good listener takes time and practice, and it won’t happen in a flash. It requires willingness and commitment. By learning, we develop our virtues of patience and humbleness. It also teaches us to resolve conflicts by avoiding them. “Listening actually changes the person to whom you are listening”(Carl Rogers).
We encourage you to listen and actually wait for your turn to talk. Listen attentively, you can always learn new things from another person’s experience. Once you are aware of that you won’t jump into “Ok, it’s my turn”, you’ll have the ability to appreciate someone’s story or advice.
We strongly believe that a recruiter’s most powerful skill is being an active listener. Our advice is to take time to listen to your candidates and try to find what is really important to them. Recruiters have the responsibility to match the best candidates with the right positions. When it comes to our client’s organizations, it’s important we understand their requirements, get familiar with their business and culture before we can think about what candidates would be a good fit.
Our team is valuable, therefore keeping them motivated and happy is important. Trust your employees and encourage them to speak their minds. When they talk, it’s our turn to listen. Concerns or complaints are inevitable, and our mission is to solve them properly without rushing to judgments. Sometimes communication becomes a problem when we need to confront someone about their mistakes. Do it wisely without assuming that you have people figured out. Ask questions, listen and do your best to understand the whole picture. “Make sure that good listening techniques are a part of training at all levels of management, leadership, and HR so all your employees can feel comfortable addressing and reacting to complaints in the proper manner”(Cathy Siska, Chief Operating Officer).