The cause of many relationship problems is related to someone’s inability to focus and listen. Miscommunication often leads to clashes and relationships quickly take a turn to the worse as a result. In workplaces, many conflicts share this cause.
When teams or individuals fail to communicate effectively, they create an environment that breeds misaligned expectations and agendas. The result is typically an increased level of hostility which impedes efforts to restore communication. What’s the solution? Let’s begin with an easy step: Listen.
Listening is a skill. When you listen to coworkers’ concerns or goals, you show empathy and you also make sure that you spot any differences and pre-empt conflicts. Listening also is the first step toward working together. People are more likely to pay attention to what you say if you reciprocate.
Many people who claim to be good listeners are not. Why? Because they fall into these four major pitfalls.
When you argue about every word the other person says, you are not listening. Instead you come across defensive and trying to make your point. To listen effectively, give your co-worker the time to make his or her point clear, before you jump in with your argument.
This could be difficult when emotions are high — just like in any other relationship. But it is a skill that you will need to develop. Once you’ve listen to your co-worker, acknowledge what you agree with as well as the concerns. By doing so, you tell this person that you’ve been listening. Make sure that you don’t dismiss their feelings or concerns even if you don’t agree with them.
Now that you have listened to your co-worker’s concerns, try to put some actions in place. There is almost no situation that can’t be improved. Pick the points that you think are valid first, and explain how these could be improved.
For example, is your co-worker concerned a certain tool that is being used? How about considering other tools or communicating the concern to the management? Is your co-worker concerned about the type of tasks being assigned to him or her? How about agreeing on a review and assessment? Taking action after a discussion is the best way to tell this person, “you have been heard.”
When people open up to you and share their concerns, it is a great opportunity for you to address these issues. But don’t take their trust for granted. If you are not happy with what they say and you backlash, they are likely to shut down and avoid open communication in the future.
That is why even when a person is totally in the wrong in your eyes, make sure that you handle the situation as delicately as you can to ensure that you keep communication open. Ways to do so is to say politely that you get their feelings and concerns, although you don’t agree with them. You could offer to help them communicate with the right person, if you’re not. Or you ask them to rethink their position. All of these are better choices than putting them in a vulnerable position.
If you are a good listener, you know how to pay attention when a person is talking. You figure out their concerns, listen for underlying messages and understand what really drives their concerns or fears. If you’re unable to focus while you’re listening, your responses may lack focus or be off-base.
With all the stresses that people go through in daily life, soliciting the energy and focus to listen to a co-worker can be tasking. But if you do it, do it right. Perhaps avoid this conversation during busy work hours, or schedule it on an often-quiet afternoon or after hours. Mute your phone and don’t glance at your email every 15 seconds. By doing so you can give your co-worker your undivided attention and help yourself become a better listener.
The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor.
Avoid listening problems
Don’t argue everything you disagree with
Take action that is meaningful
Don’t backlash at the person sharing
Pay full attention while you’re listening