….and so become a better leader.
EI can be developed and improved by learning and practising certain skills Empathy is the ability to share another person’s feelings, being able to see things from their viewpoint, being aware of, and sensitive to, and their feelings. It is a difficult skill to master, and requires deliberate effort, but it can be practised and honed. Effective listening plays a large part in empathetic behaviour.
Listening skills can be practised – you don’t just hear what is being said, but bring together the verbal and non-verbal signals to gain an accurate interpretation of the other person’s views and opinions.
How to improve your listening skills
Hearing and listening are quite definitely not the same thing. You can hear something, but if you don’t consider every aspect of what is being said, you won’t be listening. So you may not pick up the correct message. This is how misunderstandings occur. Good communication skills demand the ability to really ACTIVELY LISTEN to what others are saying.
You have two ears, and one mouth. Use them in that ratio.
When you are listening you need to concentrate on what the other person, the speaker, is saying. Don’t use the time when they are speaking to construct your response to what you think they are saying, or to think about the tasks you have to complete today. Or what you might have for lunch.
Focus on them, put them at ease, use eye contact and nod or say “yes”, or “mmmh” to show empathy with them. Don’t interrupt them or doodle on your notepad, or shuffle your papers. That will make them anxious-they know you are bored and not listening to what they mean to convey to you. Give them your full attention.
Look at their body language and use it to help you listen to what they are saying. Don’t let their mannerisms distract you from the content. Look at their gestures, their facial expressions. Make eye contact with them as appropriate
Try to understand the speaker’s point of view. If they say something you don’t necessarily agree with, don’t immediately contradict them. Think about their view of things, and try to get the whole picture of their viewpoint, maybe not just the particular issue that is being discussed.
Listen to the pitch, tone and volume of their voice –this gives emphasis to what they are saying and adds to your understanding of their message.
Allow a silence or pause if they are gathering their thoughts. Don’t immediately start talking if they are considering what to say next.
Reflecting means restating the feelings as well as the words of the speaker. This allows the speaker to have their own thoughts verbalised, and to think about what they are saying and feeling. It lets them know that the listener is trying to view the world as they see it, and understand their message. It should encourage them to continue explaining their view. Reflecting is not an opportunity for the listener to ask questions, or introduce a new topic
Ask them to clarify any points you are not clear on, ideally when they have finished speaking, rather than interrupting them.
Test your understanding of what they have said by paraphrasing or summarizing and repeating it back to them. “So let me see, you are saying that ……”
This use of clarification will ensure your understanding of what the other person has said and will eliminate or reduce misunderstanding. It will also have the effect of reassuring them that you are genuinely interested in them and what they have to say , and are at least attempting to understand what they are saying, and why.
Don’t be judgemental when clarifying. You are attempting to check the accuracy of what they are telling you. You can say “I’m not clear what you meant when you said …….. “Or “I’m not sure I understand this point …. “