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The art of listening during meetings

Effective listening plays a key role in the business world. Without proper listening, meetings cannot lead to productive and constructive outcomes. This applies to several contexts, including meetings with clients to discuss new projects and internal brainstorming sessions with colleagues. We sat down with David Pace, Business Development Consultant at MYC, to discuss effective listening during meetings.

Reasons for non-effective listening

In certain instances, people might adopt an excessively leading role in meetings, hindering others from speaking in the process. This may take place for several reasons, including speakers believing that what they have to say is most important or attempting to dominate the discussion and steer the agenda towards their benefit. Irrespective of whether one is an attendee or a leader within a meeting, listening to others is a key quality.

When one attempts to be practically the only speaker within a meeting, it might have a reverse effect. Other attendees may end up ignoring the speaker, finding his or her presence to be excessive, automatically shutting the individual out. In fact, one of the best ways to improve your presence within a meeting is by actively listening and ensuring that everyone is given the necessary time to communicate thoughts and views.

It is a common occurrence that people feel that they have attended unproductive meetings. This may be due to the fact that they were not given enough time to develop their ideas and thus being interrupted too quickly. Those attending meetings thinking that they have valid contributions to make and end up with no one listening can feel quite frustrated.

The importance of non-verbal communication

Although one’s words might invite more discussion, the non-verbal communication plays an equally important role. If you are perceived to be irritable or lacking patience when someone is speaking, this does not portray effective listening. On the other hand, maintaining eye contact and periodical nods will show that you are listening and understanding what is being discussed. Effective non-verbal communication goes a long way in supporting clients and team members to speak out.

Promoting better listening

There may be a scheduled meeting with a lot of items to discuss on the agenda and time would be limited. One way to promote better listening in this situation is to extend meeting times to rope in the different feedback. Another way of doing this is by ensuring that you only invite the people that need to be present. It is fine to not invite a large group of people. What isn’t acceptable is inviting people without allowing them enough time or opportunity to share their views.

Benefits of listening

There are several advantages to effective listening. When one does not appear to be receptive to other people’s ideas, employees or clients will withhold information. In an environment that encourages discussion through listening, both employees and clients will be more comfortable with delivering honest feedback. Failing at this could potentially mean losing out on some great ideas, useful information and new projects. 

Identifying the best ways to hold meetings

There are different ways to conduct meetings. For one, meetings can be held both physically and online. If a meeting is solely intended to provide an update and gather feedback in relation to current projects, holding it online may be suitable for the purpose. If the meeting surrounds launching a new project with multiple views being expected, it might be more suitable to hold it physically. That way, it is easier to spot if someone has something to contribute.

When communicating with others, it is important to acknowledge the person’s idea before speaking. Being clear and direct, without rushing or seemingly ignoring the previous contribution is necessary to portray effective listening.

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