Have you ever had a conversation with a colleague that left you feeling unheard? How does that make you feel? When this happens to me I leave the conversation frustrated, unappreciated, and unheard. You probably can relate to these feelings and add some more of your own. Let’s pause for two seconds and think about a time where we had a conversation and we felt heard, appreciated, and felt that connection. Listening to truly connect with your counterparts is one of the most important things you can do to become a better teammate and build stronger relationships.
There are three things you can do that will improve this immediately:
1. Listen to Understand:
I was in a meeting after practice watch to film with Mike Thomas, a fellow defensive back. You would think we wouldn’t be watch film together or talking because we are competing, however you can compete and still be friends! As we were sitting together, I was sharing how I felt like things were moving too fast and I couldn’t get my nerves down. After listening to what I had to say, Mike asked me a simple question, "why do you think that is?" I answered and he didn't tell me what to feel, he simply asked more questions. By the end I figured out the issue, but I also felt heard! Therefore, listening to understand is the best thing you can do instead of listening to respond. When you genuinely want to understand you will ask questions.
2. Listening Without Cutting Someone Off:
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone where you weren’t able to finish a complete sentence? You probably were thinking of someone as you were reading. We typically walk away from conversations like this with the same negative emotions we talked about earlier. In order to build that rapport we must allow others to be heard and feel significant. On top that, can we really understand what our team members are saying if we don’t allow them to finish their full thought? Therefore, letting others finish their thoughts then respond with a question to show you were really listening to understand, not just to respond. Responding before they finish their thought just reinfornes the fact you are only listening to respond.
3. Be Present
Last but not least...being present is the most important thing you can do in a lot of situations, but it is especially important when it comes to listening to someone. I wanted to speak to my Defensive Back Coach, Gil Byrd, in his office. When I walked in he was busy watch film and taking notes. Immediately, he stop the film, put the pen down, and began to give me his full attention. The conversation proceeded and he wasn’t looking at his phone every 5 seconds. He was present the entire time to see my facial and body reactions. When you are truly present while your team member is talking you will notice the tone in which they are talking and the way their body moves. Therefore you can handle each situation with wisdom and proper care.
I promise if you apply these three things you will improve your listening skills and ultimately become a team member that is irreplaceable.