I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to say to a classroom full of students something like “listen up”, or “pay attention”, or “you won’t want to miss this next point”. It’s downright tiresome. Or how about something almost everyone can relate to: you’re trying to speak to someone who is doing everything else but pay attention to you. Annoying, and frustrating. And it’s indicative of a false presumption: the onus to listen is on the speaker.
There’s one simple thing you can do to lead by example, and in the end, it will save time and potential misunderstandings. You can be an active listener. You can do something one of my mentors and teachers in the virtual assistance industry taught me to do: she called it “full-face listening.” The extra effort you expend ‘in the moment’ will prove highly beneficial to both listener and speaker. And if you employ, lead, guide, or coach others, if others look to you for inspiration, well, they’re already watching what you do in any given situation. Active listening gives us all one of the most unique experiences we’ll ever have: it allows us to fully focus on the words of another. Not only can we learn something, or more fully digest a message—we can also get to know another person just a little bit better.
The only potential uncomfortable part in or stressor of active listening is in situations where others are waiting to talk to you. If you can get by that, and give them your full attention next, things will work to everyone’s advantage.