Four practical tips that you can apply, starting today to be fully there
As we go about our daily lives, we often get caught up in the demands of work and our never-ending to-do list. We often find ourselves multitasking, jumping from one task to another, and rarely finding the time to be present in the moment. But the power of being present cannot be underestimated, especially in meetings. When we're fully present, we're more engaged, focused, and attentive. We're able to listen actively, absorb information, and contribute meaningfully to the conversation. The tricky thing is, it is often hard to divide our attention and feel truly present, with so many demands we are trying to meet. Unfortunately, our work schedules can be so full that it takes effort to be fully focused on doing one thing at a time. We're constantly checking emails, responding to messages, and attending to other tasks while in meetings. We may be physically present, but our minds might drift elsewhere. The good news is that there are skills that we can train, which contribute to being present in our daily lives. One of these skills is active listening. It is a critical skill for effective communication and building strong relationships, both in our personal and professional lives. It's a skill that's often overlooked, and many of us struggle to be fully present and attentive when listening to others.
At the core of active listening is the ability to fully focus on the speaker and their message, without distractions or interruptions. This means giving our full attention to the person speaking, actively seeking to understand their perspective, and responding in a way that demonstrates our engagement and understanding. You can apply these four tips to improve your active listening skills:
Create an enabling environment: Make sure that you create the ability for yourself to be present. For example, put your phone away, close your email window, turn-on your camera in an online meeting, and sit in an active posture in front of your colleague(s). This will prevent distractions.
Listen to understand, not to answer: Often when we listen to someone, we are occupied with our own response, rather than focusing on what is being said. Instead of replying, let your conversation partner for at least two minutes without interrupting them. You will see that they will feel the space to further elaborate on the topic that they are discussing with you.
Ask clarifying questions: If you're not sure you fully understand the speaker's message, ask questions to gain clarity. This shows that you're invested in the conversation and committed to understanding their point of view.
Summarize and reflect: After the speaker is finished, summarize what they said and reflect it back to them. This demonstrates that you were actively listening and helps to clarify any misunderstandings.
By practicing these tips, you can improve your active listening skills and build stronger relationships with those around you. When you actively listen to others, you show them that you value their thoughts and opinions. This leads to a more inclusive and collaborative environment, where everyone feels heard and respected. So, let's commit to being present, empathetic listeners and see the positive impact it can have on our personal and professional lives!
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