You’ve probably read lots of articles on active listening, so what else could be said about it?
Well, this: I’ve been coaching a manager who’s trying to improve his listening skills. He tends to repeat himself in meetings, and hasn’t been attentive to others. So first we worked on awareness: yes, he’s aware that he doesn’t listen well and that he repeats himself. That’s good. This may seem obvious, but I pointed out that in order to listen better you have to stop talking. I wondered what led him to keep on talking, so I asked: What do you think is behind that?
It turns out that he has a hard time with silence, so he continues speaking or jumps in when things are quiet. Wow! That’s interesting. If we could get him to better tolerate silence, maybe he’d listen better to others. He said he’s not sure what drives that anxiety about silence – but that’s ok, because we have a strategy: we’re working on having him sit with the silence in our coaching sessions, to get used to living with that feeling.
Another thing that will help him is learning to periodically paraphrase what other people say. That will keep him more focused on them and maybe reduce repeating himself.
Seems to be working! Here’s what his boss has to say: Quick note to let you know what a positive impact your time is having with X. All in all, he is a very enthusiastic participant and is extremely motivated as a result of his time with you and learnings gained so far.