Listening Makes You a Better Asian Entrepreneur: Here’s How to Be Good at It
Take note, Southeast Asian founders
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Have you ever been in a conversation where the other person keeps talking over you or looks at his computer mumbling a mindless “Uh-huh,” after your every sentence?
Leaders often forget that to make genuine connections with your team members, you need to actively listen. Get them to trust you first by making them feel that you truly understand their needs and that whatever they have to say has value.
“When you [listen] properly, you focus on what the other person is saying to you, not just taking in the words, but really trying to understand the intent, scope, and implication of the message,” Wanda Thibodeaux writes in her Inc. article.
Hearing people out can help you avoid potential problems in the office. A simple conversation may already be a cry for help from an employee who is having difficulties at work, or it may lead to a solution you’ve been overlooking the whole time. As a leader, you will be tempted to believe you have all the answers. But learning how to actively listen will not only benefit the company, it will win your team members’ hearts, as well.
Active or empathetic listening is a technique wherein you listen to another person solely to comprehend, Bryan Adams explains in this Inc. article, and not to criticize, object, or convince.
Don’t be in the conversation so somebody can hear your stories, rather be genuinely interested in the other person’s thoughts, feelings, experiences, or even life-lessons. Go into the conversation wanting to learn something from the person.
Here are a few tips Southeast Asian leaders can practice to get into the habit of active listening:
1. Take a deep breath
Adams says one of the “simplest and most important” steps you can take is to slow down your breathing and relax your muscles.
“When we’re tense, our body produces cortisol and adrenaline, neither of which allow us to listen proficiently,” Adams writes.
The moment you feel yourself getting worked up over what the other person is saying, pause and take a breath. You will be able to respond better when your emotions are in check and your head isn’t clouded by negative thoughts.
2. Be mindful of body language
Being a master listener, Adams writes, necessitates an active interest in body language and facial expressions. For instance, pursed lips, lack of eye contact, crossed arms, nail biting, and the like typically fall under negative body language. On the other hand, consistent eye contact, a peaked head position nodding in agreement, leaning in, and arms at the waist normally demonstrate positive body language.
So the next time you’re talking to someone, observe the way they stand or what they do with their hands. Words are important, but these non-verbal signs may also indicate what they are not saying.
In the same way, be mindful of your own body language. Maintaining eye contact, for instance, shows people that they have your full attention.
At the end of the conversation, try summarizing what has been talked about. But don’t simply repeat what the other person said.
“Instead of focusing on regurgitating, think in terms of needs or desires, which is why the speaker is talking to you in the first place,” Thibodeaux writes, “This kind of summary is much more validating to the speaker and forces you to pinpoint the purpose for the communication. The speaker still has the chance to correct you if your perception is off.”
Remember that it will take a little back and forth between you and the other person before you can piece together the puzzle. So be patient with yourself, too. Just practice these habits and you’ll be a master listener in no time.