Do you really listen or just “kind of” listen? The problem with “kind of” listening is that it usually leads to misunderstandings. But, we’ve all “kind of” listened at one time or another. In fact, we usually have to remind ourselves to “actively listen” to what is being said. Some people daydream, others are thinking about what they want to say, and still others are preparing their to-do list. If you are having communication problems between your HOA Board members, it may be because they don’t know how to actively listen. Here are a few tips to help you wear your listening ears.
Choose to Listen: Do you remember the saying about having two ears and one mouth, so you’re supposed to listen twice as much as talk? Everything starts when you choose to listen.
Be Interested In What Is Being Said: Face the speaker and make eye contact. Lean forward. Jot down a few notes. When you make an effort to listen, you automatically start to listen more attentively.
Eliminate Distractions: Put away books, phones, and gadgets. Turn off the radio or TV. Don’t read email or texts. Concentrate on what the person is saying.
Respond with Interest: Gestures such as nodding or smiling shows you are listening. Ask questions or clarify a point when it’s appropriate for you to comment. Restate a point that the speaker made to make sure you’re on the same page.
Don’t Interrupt: Our brains work four times faster than our speech. Wait for pauses or for the speaker to ask for questions before you jump in with a comment. Don’t assume that you know where the speaker is going with a thought—Let him/her finish an idea.
Be Respectful: Even if you disagree, be open to letting others express their ideas and thoughts without interrupting. When you do express disagreement, be conscious of your tone, choice of words and body language. In Board meetings, you need to strive for consensus; not one-upmanship.
Even though active listening skills are intuitive, It takes practice to be a good listener. You enhance listening skills by modeling positive and effective communication in every Board meeting and each time you talk to someone. As your listening skills improve, so will your conversational skills. Try listening more and talking less, and you’ll soon see how much your listening skills are valued by fellow Board members.