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Creating Successful Leaders

friends having coffee

Let’s say you’re sitting down with a few friends over cups of coffee. One friend is sharing the details of a recent trip she took with her family, and her story is reminding you of a trip you took not long ago. Instead of listening to your friend, your mind drifts to your own vacation and you begin thinking of all the details you want to share. As soon as there’s a lull in conversation, you jump in and begin telling about your experience.

When the coffee date ends, you head home and your significant other asks, “So, how did it go? How is everyone?”

“It was fun,” you say. “Sam went on vacation recently to the Maldives…or was it Morocco? One of the kids fell ill from…food poisoning, I think? Or maybe they caught a bug on the airplane? Umm…anyway, everyone’s fine and it was nice to catch up.”

Then, you whisk away before your significant other can ask any more questions!

If you find it difficult to recall details of conversations, your memory might not be at fault. Rather, you might need to tune up your listening skills. Active listening takes work. It’s a skill that many people lack these days (likely thanks to our short attention spans!), but it has always been a worthwhile skill to have.

If you’re wondering if you are, in general, a good listener, it’s a good idea to ask yourself one key question:

“Do I truly listen, or just wait to speak?”

If you’re crafting a response in your head, you’re not really listening. Instead of focusing on what you’ll say next, commit to being fully present for the speaker. Put away your distractions and think about what they’re telling you.

It helps to ask questions, too. You might ask a clarifying question or ask for a few more details. If you want to develop an even deeper understanding of what is being said, try asking a thought-provoking question that goes beyond a yes/no response (How did you feel when_____? What was it like to______?)

Another technique for practicing active listening is to repeat back some of the information you’ve learned and then, perhaps, ask a follow-up question. For example: “Wow, Sam, it sounds like Sophie was pretty sick in Morocco. Was any of the trip salvageable? Do you think you’ll go back for a “do over”?

Above all, you have to want to listen. Listening is a humble act. You have to be okay with not being the center of attention and investing your time and attention in others. So, do others a kindness: practice active listening!

Looking for a job change? Or, hoping to accelerate your current career? Check out the career resources (both FREE and paid) on my website!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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