Today, I sang to my grand kids in a family Zoom meeting and then spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how to add a aquarium video background for our next visit. My strategies of how to best communicate in a world of social distancing has changed.
Almost overnight, we have been all been thrown into navigating our days in a virtual world, and into the need for better virtual listening.
Much of what I teach encourages face-to-face communication – now a regular challenge. Virtual conversations and meetings are becoming our new norm – for work and for our personal relationships. And, it makes good communication even more challenging, especially good listening.
Active listening is not an easy thing to do in any situation. Most of us practice poor listening habits even in the best of times. That includes common bad habits of interrupting one another, or jumping in to solve a problem or offer advice instead of hearing everything someone wants to say first.
It gets even trickier if the conversation becomes tense or a conflict needs to be resolved.
How do you improve your active listening in in today’s virtual world?
Make it about them as much as you can. Think of how you are coming across and the message you are sending, but always start with listening first.
Here are some virtual listening tips:
- Make sure that when you are participating in a virtual conversation or meeting you do your part to create an open and safe environment where people can feel free to talk without feeling insecure. You can do this by using the chat options whenever possible and encourage and acknowledge input and questions from everyone.
- Pause and wait for input and give your full attention. That will make people more comfortable opening up to you to be candid and honest.
- When at all possible view the person/people face to face, observe their body language, and focus on listening to the other person’s entire message without any distractions.
- Don’t interrupt or talk over people. Model the behavior you want to see in others.
- Give reassurance that you are listening to what they have to say and that it is important.
- Do your best to actively listen by asking questions, confirming your understanding, and clarifying anything that does not make sense.
- Keep you focus on the issue you are discussing. Don’t make it about the person. Stay on task and stick to the facts and issues in front of you.
- Ask for input from those you haven’t heard from. Virtual meetings are a challenge for many, especially large meetings.
- Practice patience. Communication online is more difficult. A good skill to develop is to simply be patient with other listeners.
Do your part to make the transition to our virtual world as easy as you can by leading the way to better virtual listening.
Betty Lochner is a human resources consultant, business coach and expert in workplace communications. She is the owner and CEO of Cornerstone Coaching & Training dedicated to helping individuals, work groups and organizations become better communicators and leaders. She is the author of 2 books on communication, and a newly published journal Intentional Gratitude.
For more training and professional development offerings, check out Cornerstone-ct.com. For more info on her new online courses: Manager Essentials: How to Be a Better Boss and Communication Skills for Success.
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