Real Leaders

5 Tips to Listen More Effectively During Team Meetings

Intercultural journalists during talk with studio guests

1) Keep Continuous Eye Contact. Distractions come in a variety of ways: thoughts about not liking the speaker, finding them dull, not liking their voice, noise coming from outside the room, noise coming from outside the window, feeling hungry, thinking about how your date with the girl in accounting is going to go later tonight, etc. As Tony Robbins says, “Where attention goes, energy flows.” During this team meeting, your job is to give the speaker 100% of your energy, not your thoughts about them (or tonight’s date). Do so by keeping continuous eye contact with them, not bringing your attention anywhere else.

2) Avoid Reframing Responses While Others Speak. Another place your thoughts may go is to formulate answers while the meeting leader speaks. Perhaps you are simply inspired and want to excitedly answer or disagree and are bursting to interject. To actively listen, our brains need to be silent and focused. If we’re thinking about how we will answer, it’s physiologically impossible for our brain to fully listen. This puts us in danger of missing what the speaker is saying. At meetings, when someone is speaking, practice actively focus on them and every word they are saying. When the speaker is done with their point, pause for a few seconds, then begin to formulate your response.

3) Pay Attention to Sense-Based Language. Some of us learn visually, others auditorily or kinesthetically; generally, we have a preference. But did you know people will give away their learning preferences as they talk? For example, they might say, “Can you picture that?” or “It’s not so black and white” (visual); “Like music to my ears” or “That rings a Bell” (auditory); “I feel that” or “Working hand in hand” (kinesthetic). Make a point to really listen for these sense-based predicate phrases, as the speaker is unconsciously giving away how they learn and want to be spoken to! How can you use this to your advantage? In your conversation after the meeting, use similar sense-based language to create unconscious rapport with them!

4) Connect, Detail, Construct, Invent? Like with sense-based language, you can listen even more deeply for the methodology behind how the speaker communicates their message. Are they focusing on the big picture? (Connect). Are they statistic/fact-oriented? (Detail). Are they talking about the actual physical actions to be done? (Construct). Are they brainstorming possibilities? (Invent). I call these four profile types one’s “Processing Power.” They’re four main ways people synthesize or “process” the information they take in. Just like with sense-based language, they’re giving you an unconscious hint about themselves, so pay attention to which of these four profiles they’re coming from. When you formulate a response, you’re much more apt to be “speaking their language” when you hit a “Connect” personality with a “Connect” response! You can learn more about sense-based language and processing power profiles in my book “Unlock Inner Genius.”

5) If You Don’t Understand, Ask for Clarification. Even if you’re listening very clearly and attentively, you still may not fully understand. If this is the case, it is absolutely on you to let go of the wallflower routine and respectfully ask for clarification during a break or pause. This will help clear things up for you and show the speaker that you are listening attentively and care about getting their message accurately. Plus, it will help you avoid that awkward post-talk conversation in which you’re suddenly asked your opinion on something you didn’t fully understand!

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