Want to Improve Your Connections and Communication?

It is a busy time of year with plenty of distractions at work and home. Those distractions negatively impact our communication with people at work and with loved ones. Want to improve your connections and communication in an impactful way? There is one often overlooked skill that is a game changer. Read on to learn three simple tips to help you communicate better during your holiday celebrations and throughout the new year.

How do we differentiate between listening and hearing?

Good communication involves listening. Listening is something we consciously choose to do; we make an effort to hear something. Hearing is the act of perceiving sound by the ear. We often confuse the two when we say things such as, ” I hear you.” Imagine you are working and hear a phone ringing in another room or a train’s horn in the distance. You were not making an effort to listen to those sounds. Your ears perceived the ringing phone and train horn, and your brain registered the sounds. Listening is more engaging; it requires us to focus on the person speaking and do our best to understand what they are saying.

The WIIFM (What’s in it for me)

Research shows that listening skills in the workplace are three times more critical to one’s career than speaking skills. Good listening skills make leaders and individual contributors more effective and productive. Those skills help improve rapport with teams, customers, co-workers, and family members. By listening, you improve your connection with people and get to the underlying meaning of what others say rather than jumping to conclusions or making assumptions.

Barriers to effective listening include:

  • Technology
  • Judgments
  • Preference to talk
  • Impatience

Stephen Covey, the bestselling author, says, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” How does that apply to you? Now is an excellent time to practice listening to rather than simply hearing what people say.

Quick Tips to Implement Today

  • Slow down – Slowing down helps you ground yourself and be more available to listen. This is especially important when you or the person speaking is stressed, or either of you happens to be fast-paced. That can be as simple as taking a couple of deep breaths. Slowing down will also help you focus better.
  • Pay attention to the person speaking with you. Remove distractions such as email, set your phone down, and make eye contact with the person. If you are on a phone call, picture the person speaking and avoid multitasking. For those of you who like to type on your computer while on calls, we can hear you typing. . As a result, people doubt that you are listening, and you damage or lose the connection with that person.
  • Practice asking questions during the conversation to gain clarity. Let the person speaking finish their thought before you ask your questions. It will not be helpful if you interrupt them or talk over them. That behavior shuts people down and disengages them. Remember, it is not an interrogation. Keep your questions conversational.
  • Listen deeper, which means noticing the speaker’s tone and body language. Doing so helps you to go beyond just listening to their words. Getting better at that skill enables you to listen at more levels than just what you hear them saying. Developing this skill will significantly improve your communication and connections.

Listening helps you improve your connection to and communication with others. Taking the time and making an effort to listen is a wonderful gift to give someone. We all want to feel heard and have people care enough to listen to what we say. Consider who you can give the gift of listening to this holiday season and throughout the new year. It just may make your holidays and 2023 brighter. We would love to hear about your experience.

Sue Kenfield leads transformative initiatives with her clients to build agile and resilient organizations by strengthening leadership, increasing talent retention, decreasing conflict, enhancing human capital, aligning organizational strategy and culture.  


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