rawpixel / Pixabay

When your team members come to you with questions, concerns, problems, or ideas, do you listen to them? I mean, do you really listen to them? Are you active and engaged—or are you just waiting them to finish so you can jump in with your own comments?

Truly listening to another person is critical for real communication. It’s also something you have to learn. Many leaders never get the training they need in active listening, which means their efforts at better communication are fundamentally flawed. The good news is, anyone can become a better listener, so long as they’re willing to work at it.

What Prevents You from Active Listening?

A good place to start is recognizing the biggest barriers to active listening. Do any of these ring a bell with you?

  1. Trying to be a mind-reader. When another person’s talking, you don’t need to attempt to psychoanalyze them or deduce what they’re really trying to say. Concentrate on their actual words—the things they’re trying to get through to you.
  2. Judging prematurely. Have you already decided that so-and-so is frivolous or silly or unqualified, before you even hear what they have to say? If so, then you’re not really listening, and it’s as simple as that.
  3. Filtering. Leaders can sometimes filter out the things they don’t want to hear—like words that could be construed as negative or critical. Ask yourself, are you listening to everything the other person is saying? Are you sure?
  4. Jumping in with advice. Most leaders are problem-solvers, deep down. We like to try to fix things. But there’s a time and place for that, and sometimes it’s better to bite your tongue and listen rather than leaping in with suggestions.
  5. Correcting. Here’s a related problem: You hear one factual inaccuracy that you want to correct, and your mind just shuts down. You don’t hear a single thing the other person says, because all you want to do is chime in with a “well, actually.” But here again, if that’s where your mind is, it means you’re not truly listening.

There are a number of common behaviors that keep us from listening properly—but by recognizing them, you can work to do better.