Can You Hear Me Now? Tips to Be a Better Listener at your Workplace

On a scale of 1 to 5, how important is trust in the workplace? Do you trust your managers? If you’re a manager yourself, do you think your co-workers trust you?

If you gave trust a ‘1’ or tuned out the rest of the questions, then you’d better keep reading. And if you gave trust a ‘5,’ but couldn’t answer ‘yes’ to either or both questions, then you’d also better keep reading…And if it was all too complex to answer…keep reading…Let me explain.
Throughout my workshops, I speak passionately about the importance of developing trust in relationships with our co-workers.
I place particular emphasis on this issue for those in the room who are supervisors.
Building trust takes time and effort in any relationship, but particularly if you’re in a supervisory role.
At work, many supervisors mistakenly assume that trust comes with their job titles—It doesn’t.
And without trust you won’t be able to achieve anything (except for maybe a line of employees rushing to the exit sign, looking for their next job).
When you’re new to an organization, it’s the perfect time to take the lead on developing those relationships, gaining not only trust, but respect as well.
Even if you’ve been with the company for a while, it’s not too late to make more, meaningful connections—I promise.
In fact, as a supervisor, you must ensure that you make the effort to meet with each member of your team.
And I don’t just mean a casual “How are you doing?” when you barely slow down as you pass each other in the corridor, but a serious getting to know you meeting.

Your goal? Get to know each individual by listening, asking questions, showing empathy, and listening.

Yes, I know, I said listening twice. The reason is simple:
Listening, really listening, is the single most powerful communication tool that you have at your disposal—so, use it twice as much as any other!
Ask them what is and what isn’t working, and then, you guessed it, listen to their response.
Another key piece of advice is not to take things personally.
When I first heard this, I thought that it was counter-intuitive since all relationships to some degree or another are personal, but it’s not.
Even in difficult workplace relationships, if you take things personally you’ll miss the fact that your co-workers are sharing things with you that are truly important to them, and you’ll miss what really bothers them—especially when someone is feeling attacked.
Remember, it isn’t about you.
If you can change your perspective (by really listening and understanding) and hear what the person is revealing about him/herself, then you can often break through and earn trust.
After all, developing and earning trust comes down to being able to do a few simple things:

  • Being able to demonstrate that you are really listening to what the other person says
  • Being able to match your words to your actions
  • Being consistent
  • Being true to you word
  • Being able to do the right thing even when it is not the easy thing to do

Let me help you with the first item on this list:
Demonstrating that you are really listening.
First, remember that technically, listening is the act by which we make sense of sounds. Although many people take listening for granted, it’s a complex skill that is part of the larger process of communication.
And communication is the method by which one person sends a message to another.
It has four primary elements (all of which are critical):

  1. The Sender
  2. The Message
  3. The Channel of Communication
  4. The Receiver

In the Respectful Conduct in the Workplace workshops that we deliver, I focus on reinforcing and renewing our workshop participants’ abilities to communicate with one another.
There is nothing more annoying, disappointing, and disrespectful then when we’re speaking to someone and we know that they’re not paying attention to us.
So, imagine now that you are The Receiver and that you are in the process of listening to another person.

Look at this simple Common Listening Habits checklist….and honestly answer the questions:

How’d you do?
Your answers will provide you some basic information on how you can improve your listening habits.
For every answer that you answered YES, an opportunity exists for you to be a better and more effective listener.
With this increased level of self-awareness, the next step is to practice, practice, practice!
So, now think about those trust questions I asked at the beginning…have your answers changed?


About the Author:

Phil Eastwood is a former London Bobby who brings a thirty-five year career in policing to his role as Senior Partner of Fiore Group Training, a recognized leader in training top North American organizations. Phil is lead author of workplace training courses in respectful workplace training, workplace violence employee training, and leadership training seminars.

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