Ever witness an epic clash between two people you thought were both heroes and thought, This could all have been avoided if they would just listen to each other?
Forget the grappling hook – effective listening is one of the most important skills in the superhero manager’s tool belt. It might not help you scale walls, but it can stop two major enemies – conflict and confusion – before they have time to set in and wreak havoc on employees.
Here are a five ways you can improve your listening skills and stop misunderstandings before they snowball into the next Batman vs. Superman.
- A clear space equals a clear head.
Unless you’re capable of laser-like focus at all times, it’s easy to get distracted by the things around you. If you’ve got an employee coming in to talk to you, clear your space ahead of time. That means closing your email, moving papers off or to the side of your desk, etc.The key here is to know what distracts you. Are you prone to fiddling with your pen? Get it out of your eye-line. A clear space not only cuts down on distractions, it also sends the other person a message: I’m focusing solely on you.
- Get the blood moving to your brain.
Ever wonder how superheroes are able to think so clearly during those big battle scenes? It may partially be due to those enhanced senses. But it could also be because movement gets the blood flowing, especially to your brain.If you know you’re going to have to sit and listen for a while – at a briefing, for example – try to get a little exercise in first. Take it easy, Flash: a brisk walk around the building will do – anything that deepens your breathing and gets the blood pumping to your brain.
- Hit ‘Record’ in your head for later.
Barbara Gordon may be able to remember every conversation she’s ever had, but most of us have a harder time recalling what people have told us. One trick that helps: Tell yourself that you’ll have to recount this conversation to someone else.That way, you’ll be more alert and more likely to ask clarifying questions. If you need to hold yourself accountable, jot down the major points in the conversation as soon as the other person leaves.
- Don’t try to read their minds.
Ah, the gift of telepathy: Just think of how many misunderstandings could be avoided if we had Professor X-like powers. However, most of us don’t – but that doesn’t stop us from trying to guess at what other people are thinking.Quit making assumptions about what’s really going on in someone’s head when they’re talking to you. It’s better to ask and know for sure. Most people will be happy to clear up any confusion about what they’re trying to communicate.
- Know your limitations.
Even the greatest of superheroes have their limits. It’s important to know yours. If you’re already feeling stressed, tired or in a rush, let the other person know upfront that now isn’t a good time to talk. And if you’ve listened for a long time and can feel yourself hitting a wall, it’s OK to ask for break.Thank the other person for coming to you and assure them you’ll get back to them to finish your conversation.
Do you have any tips for improving listening that we missed? We’re all ears! Tell us in the comment section below.