As it appeared in the Daily Nation on November 17th 2020
Dr Lucy Kiruthu
Listening is a crucial skill. Unfortunately, many lack this skill. On the contrary, most of us appreciate the importance of effective communication. We often list effective communication as one of our core competences. Further, we also lookout to hire those that we believe can effectively communicate and enjoy the company of those that listen to us. However, we fail to realize that talking does not make one an effective communicator but active listening does. When we listen to each other, we make the flow of information and understanding smoother. How can we claim to understand or to feel the other person, if we do not listen to them? If we have not developed our ability to listen, we cannot claim to be effective communicators.
Most likely, you have been to a meeting where the leader failed to listen to anybody else except himself or herself, he or she just talked. You might also have witnessed a gathering where no one was listening to the other; everybody had something important to say. Maybe you have had a telephone conversation where the other person did all the talking; they did not seem interested in listening to your point of view. I appreciate that we are all different and there are those among us whose personality makes them very talkative. Being talkative does not mean that one has no time to listen. In my interactions with diverse people, I have come across some talkative people that are intentional about listening. Are you intentional about listening?
We all need to pose and listen to each other. Leaders especially need to listen a little more. Smart leaders listen to what is being said and even what is not being said. Such leaders actively listen. Actively listening means paying full attention to what others have to say and seeking to understand them. It also means interacting nonverbally during the conversation to let the other person know we are listening and understand their pointing of view. Listening allows others to say what they need to say without interruption. Actively listening means asking the right questions to find out more information to help us fully understand others and move the conversation forward. Actively listening is also about clarifying what is not understood and committing to follow through on agreed-upon actions. If you wish to become a more effective communicator, be an active listener. If you want to become a better leader, actively listen!
Business leaders need to listen to their staff and customers. Political leaders need to listen to their citizens. Community leaders need to listen to all their stakeholders. Family members, colleagues, friends and even strangers need to listen to one another. When we do, we understand better. When we fail to listen, our worldview becomes contracted and we fail to connect with others. In the world of business, listening improves both our personal and professional relationships. Besides, listening makes leaders better human beings and helps them improve their businesses from what others have to say. If we want to become better at who we are and at what we do, we must listen more!
Dr Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via Twitter @KiruthuLucy