Fieldamental #9: Practice Active Listening

PRACTICE ACTIVE LISTENING. Listening is more than simply “not speaking.”  Give people your undivided attention, without interrupting. Be present and engaged. Ask questions, suspend your judgment, and be curious to learn more. Listen with care and provide feedback.  Above all, listen to understand.

Active listening is an important component of many of our Fieldamentals.  Being a very good and active listener is the best way to really understand someone or something.  A detailed understanding then allows us to:

Field active listening
  • Delivery legendary service
  • Honor commitments
  • Drive for innovation
  • Get Clear on expectations
  • Practice blameless problem solving
  • Find a way
  • Be relentless about continuous improvement
  • Share information
  • Work smart
  • Be process oriented

Active listening requires you to pay attention, be focused, completely engage and commit to understanding the other person.  Validate your understanding by asking questions that summarize what you heard.  Taking notes can be an important tool for understanding complex situations and makes it clear to the other person you are interested in what they are saying.

This is also very important when you are having a conversation on the phone.  It can be very easy to get distracted by e-mails, stuff on your desk or other activities while you are on the phone.  Eliminate these kinds of distractions while on the phone.  Turn away from your computer, minimize the applications that are open or simple put the other things down so you can fully and actively listen to the person on the phone.  It is very hard, if not impossible, to practice active listening while you are driving and talking (hands free) on a cell phone.

Another aspect of active listening is to make sure that the time is right to have a conversation.  Make sure upfront that everyone involved has the time to discuss the situation, reschedule if necessary.

And last but not least, a quick lesson on the best way to NOT actively listen. Interrupting someone that is talking is NOT active listening! Let me repeat, when you interrupt someone, you are NOT listening to what they are saying. You are only focused on what you are trying to say and not what they are telling you.  When you interrupt someone, you are making it clear that you are not interested in what they are saying and your words are more important that theirs. The best approach to stop yourself from interrupting can be to write yourself a quick a note so you don’t forget your thought and continue to listen until the other person is finished talking. After letting the other person finish talking you may find that the point you wanted to make is no longer applicable.

Active listening is an amazing tool to better understanding others and a great tool to improve communication.