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7 Things Truly Amazing Listeners Do Differently

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7 Things Truly Amazing Listeners Do Differently

“We are given two ears, but only one mouth. This is because God knew that listening was twice as hard as talking.” — Anon

How many times have you switched off when somebody is talking to you? This is just one of the questions you should ask yourself if you think that you are a really good listener. Great listening skills are the foundations for effective communication in every walk of life, be they politics, relationships, business, parenting, religion, or international diplomacy.

Here are the seven things that make truly amazing listeners stand out from the crowd. When you read these, you might have to redefine your status of being a great listener, or you might just be able to pat yourself on the back.

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1. They really listen

You know the scene. You mention a curious fact or somebody interesting you met at the weekend and want to tell your friend. The amazing listener will actually listen to what you have to say and will not take this as a cue to start off on their own weekend. This is what they do instead:

  • Encourage you to give more details by asking about why, when and where.
  • Give you their full attention and they never start sending texts while listening.
  • Ask for clarification without giving the impression that they know more or better.
  • They can gently probe to discover fears.

Read the following sample from a nurses’ training guide about how active listening works.

2. They restate in a helpful manner

Because they are really present and giving you their full attention, they can actually restate what you are saying when you are troubled, perplexed or doubtful. They will be able to reiterate the points that can help you reflect and summarize what you are trying to get across. They often use the expression, “I’m hearing that … but you feel …”

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3. They know how to use eye contact

They know how to maintain eye contact. They know instinctively that it is a great help in keeping all the visual distractions at bay. There is nothing worse than a listener who fails to make eye contact, or keeps on shifting his or her gaze around the room, especially at a party or official reception. When Bill Clinton met a journalist in South Africa, his eye contact was more than effective as recounted below:

“Clinton looked me in the eyes and seemed to have a genuine interest in what I was saying. His gaze never left me. He made me feel like the most important person in the room at the time, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates was standing right next to us!”

4. They use body language effectively

Great listeners usually use body language to send the right signals that they are listening. Here is what they are so good at:

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  • Nodding when appropriate.
  • Leaning forward when sitting down.
  • Rarely crossing arms as it can give the impression of defensiveness or closure.
  • Being conscious of how mouth, hands and facial expression can help the speaker.
  • Keeping fidgeting such as drumming fingers under control.
  • Expressing interest and curiosity without being over the top.

5. They can follow up on conversations

There is nothing worse than coming up against a colleague or acquaintance who cannot remember essential facts from a previous exchange. The amazing listener has all this worked out. He or she is skilled at recalling facts. They are often distinguished by the following openers:

  • I remember that you told me you were …
  • How is X coming along?
  • I know you were worried about Y. Have there been any developments?
  • What happened when you asked your boss for that raise?

6. They listen smarter

Let’s face it. These listeners have very few preconceived ideas about what they are going to hear. All too often, bias is the default position when we listen. We give too much importance to our inner voice.

But the skilled listeners approach the story and the storyteller with an open mind so that no time is wasted in getting rid of certain assumptions. They also know that the 80 percent listening time versus the 20 percent speaking time ratio is usually right. They also know that efficient listening is going to prevent misunderstandings and trouble later on. It pays to listen smarter.

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7. They look for the right environment

You know how difficult it is to talk to somebody on the phone or with a desk in front of you. The amazing listeners know that the right listening environment does make a difference. They usually:

  • Move from behind the desk to sit beside the speaker.
  • Remove any other obstacles so that communication is maximized.
  • Make every effort to meet face to face.
  • Always turn off devices and minimize possible interruptions.

Read how counselors are trained to create the right listening environment for troubled children. There are lots of useful tips here for any listening session.

Great listeners are on a winning streak. They have enormous advantages over those who talk too much, dominate conversations and have few empathetic skills. It’s a win-win situation if you really are an amazing listener.

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“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” — Dale Carnegie

Featured photo credit: Symphony of love/ BK and Ben Grey via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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