Are you a good listener? How do you know this is the case?
Effective listening is a skill that most of us take for granted, believing that we ARE paying attention to what is being said and that we understand the message being communicated. In reality, we frequently rely on our own perceptions and beliefs when 'listening' to others, resulting in an action that was different to the one intended! It is unsurprising therefore, that we often interpret verbal information incorrectly, but remain adamant that it's what we 'heard'.
Improving your listening skills as an accountant can provide an exceptional advantage during your interactions with others – good listeners are respected by their teams and customers, build more effective relationships, and are often seen as more approachable, reliable and trustworthy.
Relationship research highlights four critical behaviours that all good listeners exhibit:
Repetition – At times, it can be helpful to replay the message back to the speaker – exactly how it was spoken in the first instance. This demonstrates that you have listened to the words being said. At this stage however, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ve understood the message, simply that the speaker’s words have been received.
Rephrasing – Rephrasing the message in your own words converts the speaker’s message into your preferred language as it is likely that you will express your thoughts and feelings in different ways to others. Explaining your understanding of the message is also an important way of showing that you are engaged in the conversation.
Reflection – We frequently listen to others without considering the feelings behind the message. When the conversation involves a disagreement, reflecting on how the speaker may feel about what they’re saying can be a game-changer in reaching an agreement or exacerbating matters. Think about the emotions at play – Anger? Fear? Shame?
Recognition – The final aspect of good listening is about recognising the speaker’s message and feelings. The important part is to understand the speaker’s perspective – you won’t always agree, but you should now be in a position to respond more effectively.
Each of the four stages enables a dialogue between the speaker and listener, ensuring that the message is checked and fully understood, minimising the impact of assumptions and beliefs.