How PMs can elevate their listening skills?

Listening is an underrated skill: Often, we are trained only how to speak well but not how to listen productively. In addition, we tend to think of listening as something passive. But listening takes on an active, engaging quality when it’s polished well.

4 reasons — Why listening is important for PMs ❓

  • Helps in amassing new information
  • Helps to gather team’s support while decision making
  • Help to reinforce & nourish relationships with stakeholders
  • Assists in gaining new insights

As Steve Covey mentioned, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. I am sure you must have experienced that as well. We put together an answer in the brain while the other person is still speaking. It is known as “Selective Listening “ as mentioned in the table below.

Level 1 & level 2 are self-explanatory, Level 3 is the most common scenario we come across in our daily interactions. Let’s understand Level 4 & 5 which needs to be mastered by a PM.

Attentive Listening As its name suggests, you listen attentively when you pay close attention to what is being said. This listening level requires effort and concentration and requires you be invested in the conversation. It ensures that you capture the thought correctly, however, the focus remains on an exchange of the information.

The most profound level of listening is Empathic Listening. In this case, you aren’t just receiving what is being said but also connect and empathize with the speaker. This ensures that people feel understood and appreciated, and it builds & empowers mutual bonding. It requires an open, non-judgemental mind and a warm, caring attitude. One has to listen with no other aim other than to just simply understand the opposite person.

5 Steps to achieve Empathic Listening 🔈

  • Listen Internally first:
    Give attention to the feelings and thoughts that arise while you are listening. Structure an emotional response to the situation & acknowledge the gush of emotions running across your brain.
  • Commit your full attention to the conversation:
    Easier said than done but this is key in order to ensure that there is no subjectivity in the conversation. Also when the person feels the attention, they lower down their guard and become less defensive & more comfortable in listening to you.
  • Observe the individual’s body language:
    Capture body language, voice pitch, volume, eye movements, facial expression & gestures. Such non-verbal actions communicate a lot of the person’s intentions.
  • Practice prejudice-free listening:
    Make a conscious effort to listen with an open mind, and be genuinely curious.
  • Search for “Why” during the listening:
    Often we are being exposed to data and trends but understand the root cause behind the same can uncover the real pain points so always make sure to ask “Why” in a polite manner.

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Product Manager @AngelOne, ex-@Flipkart, @Cleartrip. Interests: Product, Technology, Strategy, Startups, Fintech & E-commerce!