A manager who is unable to hear what his employees are telling him is probably not an effective manager. Good managers integrate information that they learn from their employees and integrate this information into their workplace policies. Knowing how to hear what people are actually saying, rather than only hearing what you want to hear, is critical to effective communication.
Role playing is an effective way to learn about your own shortcomings when it comes to listening and interacting with others. Managers can engage in role-playing exercises where they play the part of the employee and someone else plays the part of the manager. When roles are reversed, a person with sub-par listening skills can be made more aware of how frustrating this is for others when they are trying to communicate. Role playing can be done one-on-one or in larger groups. Subject matter for role playing can range from business-related material to more personal or light-hearted subjects.
Games of all kinds are useful in teaching people about the importance of listening. Team games in which multiple people need to cooperate with each other are particularly useful for opening up and strengthening new channels of communication. Games can include strategic board games, role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons or sports and physical games. Applying the challenge and solidarity of team games to the learning process of communication can be an effective way of instilling these lessons into people who might be resistant to them in another context.
One drawback of people with poor listening skills is often the habit of responding before the other person is finished speaking, or of composing a response in their head while the other person is speaking rather than simply listening. Silent listening is an activity that can help to overcome this unproductive habit. Silent listening is just what it sounds like: the role of one person is to speak, and the role of the other person is to listen without replying. When the burden and opportunity of making a reply is removed, this can help a distracted person to focus more fully on what the other person is saying.
For hard cases who really have difficulty processing information from other people, tested listening is a straightforward but challenging activity in which the subject listens to someone else speak for 5 or 10 minutes, and is then tested on what that person has said. The test can consist of simple questions about the facts of what was said, or more insightful questions about the mood, intentions or agenda of the speaker. Knowing that he will be tested, the listener will pay closer attention to what the speaker is saying, and this will help to strengthen the listening part of his mind that may have been neglected for years.
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