Communication is a near-constant state of activity–almost like breathing. Internally, externally, verbally, non-verbally, consciously, and subconsciously are just a few of the ways we communicate with the outside world and to ourselves. The ability to interact is vitally important as it provides the means to express our wants, needs, beliefs, desires, preferences, and so much more.
In service-based businesses like property management, powerfully and effectively communicating means everything–ultimately driving success and failure. Our prospects, investors, tenants, vendors, and more rely on our ability to properly communicate to and with them, and if we fail, our relationships suffer and wither (and often lead to terrible Google reviews!). With so much weighing on connecting with others, how often have you thought about the completeness of your communication?
Completeness of communication lies in one’s ability to not only effectively transmit messages, but also actively receive them as well. While this concept may seem quite straightforward, it’s amazing how often conversations are one-sided. Active listening is a vital component of communication because it allows for both a productive back-and-forth as well as proper understanding between the parties involved. Want to know if you’re a complete communicator practicing active listening? Ask yourself the following question, and be bluntly truthful to yourself in responding:
Am I actually listening to what the other person is saying, or just waiting for my turn to talk?
The latter is a clear sign active listening is taking a back seat, as too little attention is being paid to the information you’re receiving in favour of contributing your own. We’re all guilty of it, so don’t get too down on yourself if you discover it’s happening more often than you’d like. Here’s a few more questions you can ask yourself to find out if active listening is a strong part of your communication repertoire or not:
Could I summarize and repeat the last 20 seconds of what the person I’m talking to has just said, if asked to? Even the last 10?
The ability to summarize and repeat back what you’ve heard conveys understanding and retention, proving you’re focused on what the other party has to say and the importance behind it.
Do I get asked the same question, or variants of it, multiple times in the same conversation?
This could be a failure on the part of the other party to actively listen to the responses you’ve given, but could also indicate you’ve not heard or internalized what they’re asking and failed to deliver an adequate response.
Am I constantly attempting to jump into the conversation at any pause from the other party, no matter how small?
Enthusiasm to respond is one thing, but paying attention to the tempo and flow of communication is important. Even a seemingly ‘easy’ question should be given thought and consideration, and rushing to respond likely means you’ve missed out on at least some of the important information put forth by the other party.
There is good news about recognizing this pattern of behaviour, even if it’s unwanted: recognition is the first step toward awareness and change. Like any habit, once you’ve identified the routine that does not serve, you can work on conditioning yourself into a new one. It may seem challenging at first, but with consistency behind your actions, you’ll start building your active listening muscles and communicating more completely in no time. A few tips to build or improve your active listening skills:
Fight the urge to interrupt
Aside from causing frustration in the other party, there’s few better ways to prove you’re more focused on what you have to say next than interrupting.
Listen without judgment or jumping to conclusions
Emotional reactions will often shut down active listening because we become defensive. Especially when complaints or difficult conversations are had, it’s important to listen to the other party and choose to respond rather than react.
Don’t start planning what to say
It’s quite difficult listening to what’s being said if you’re in the process of formulating your own response, so let go of the need to do so. Your response will not seem ill-prepared if you properly digest what the other party is saying, so don’t let fear or uncertainty control you.
Ask questions of your own
Active listening doesn’t mean you remain completely silent, as the other party may not be effectively communicating all the details you need to assist or provide service. Don’t be shy to clarify and ask questions so you can better hear and understand what the other party means or is saying.
Summarize back in your own words
We touched on it when assessing whether you were actively listening or not–can you repeat back what you’ve just heard? The ability to summarize and repeat back to the other party shows strong listening skills and that you’ve understood what they have to say.
Service-based businesses thrive off our ability to effectively and completely communicate with everyone we speak with. The more you practice active listening in your day-to-day conversations, the more powerfully you’ll connect with your prospects, investors, tenants, vendors, fellow employees and beyond. We can all expand and further hone our ability to communicate–all it takes is the will to do so and the right mindset behind it!