Why do we feel the need to talk? It could be anxiety. It could be that we’re uncomfortable with silence. It could be that we can’t help it. It could be that we don’t realize we talk a lot.
There are many reasons we are compelled to speak, and it’s not always a good thing. Of course, talking is very beneficial at times. But sometimes talking can hinder the creative and processing time of other people at work. It’s important we take the time to listen to direct reports, to peers, to clients, and anyone else in the workplace. To be a better listener in the workplace, check out these simple tips:
1. Practice mindfulness
Start becoming more mindful of how much you talk and your habits. Do you move quickly from one topic to another without allowing much time for others to respond? Pay attention to how much back and forth happens in your meetings. If it tends to be one-sided, you may need to pause more often for others to chime in. In addition, practice having positive body language, making eye contact, and getting rid of possible distractions.
2. Be curious
Be genuinely curious about others and what they have to say. Talking less is a lot easier when we’re curious about people’s opinions. Ask questions, especially to those who are a bit more reserved to draw them out a bit. Stay fully present when listening to their reply, without trying to formulate what you’ll say next. Showing an interest in your colleagues and what they have to say can also make them enjoy listening to you more. Dominating the conversation signals that their opinion isn’t truly valued.
3. Avoid speaking over others
This might seem like an obvious one but sometimes people talk over others without realizing it. Or they have a tough time restraining from interrupting because of the urge to add to conversation. Give others space to finish their complete thoughts. It’s respectful and makes them feel valued. Cutting people off can further alienate you from conversations.
4. Learn to like silence
Many people find silence uncomfortable. When there’s a lull in the conversation, people impulsively talk to fill the gaps. Reframe the way you think about the lulls. Silence can give others a moment to formulate their thoughts for discussion. So next time you’re in a meeting and there’s a lull, sit in the silence instead of filling it with chatter. Being a better listener can mean listening for longer periods of time since some individuals take longer to gather their ideas.
5. Jot down your thoughts
We often have the urge to speak when a thought or idea pops into our heads. Sometimes we fear losing that train of thought or forgetting an idea if we keep listening. In meetings, quickly jot down your thoughts to keep them together. You can use a pen and paper or type on your computer depending on what is typical for your meetings. Share when it’s an appropriate time to speak and if the moment doesn’t seem to arrive, send along your idea in an email after. You can even write down notes to praise a co-worker for their great idea later!
Everyone needs to listen at times. But if you are a leader, you may need to be extra conscious of being a better listener for your direct reports. It can be easy to talk and give advice without doing a ton of listening. Giving your employees space to form their own ideas can foster creativity and growth!