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Parker Brickley


About Parker Brickley

Parker Brickley believes listening is one of a leader’s most powerful tools. It is a vital part of developing emotional intelligence, which is essential to effectiveness in the workplace. When a leader shows that they are a reliable listener, they gain the trust of their employees and their clients and foster loyalty that will help a business retain talent and clients. Recognizing that the ubiquity of digital communications makes listening harder than ever, Parker Brickley discusses why leaders should prioritize actively listening. In the experience of Parker Brickley, many leaders can go their whole careers without being taught how to listen effectively, which can stunt their potential substantially.

Active listening is fully immersing oneself in what another person has to say. By being an active listener, a leader can better understand what someone is saying and the often hidden meaning behind their words. Leaders of all kinds should learn to silence the noise around them. This alone can be a challenge as they are usually the busiest people. No doubt, it can be hard to maintain complete focus on another person when there are any number of competing demands on one’s time and focus. Parker Brickley suggests budgeting time to concentrate entirely on one’s conversations. If someone starts speaking to you, if you can’t give them their full attention, indicate a time that might be scheduled for a more focused conversation. When the conversation does occur, cell phones can be silenced, laptops shut, and undivided attention given.

Whether with employees or clients, leaders often make the mistake of focusing on being understood, which leads to a lack of focus on understanding the person with whom they interact. Parker Brickley notes that wanting to be heard and understood is natural. However, it is the natural role of the leader to work toward understanding the problems of others. It’s only possible to provide a colleague or a client with the best solution when he or he fully comprehends the challenges that they are facing. To put active listening skills to the test, leaders must defend against the habit of formulating a response while another person is still speaking. If this happens, all focus falls on waiting for the other person to stop talking so the leader can speak. Instead, a leader should end this habit by fully absorbing what the person is saying with their words and their body before formulating a response, whether or not they are in agreement with the person they are listening to. Body language, facial cues, and nervous ticks often work in tandem to tell a much deeper story. When leaders start to see and absorb these subtleties, they may develop more meaningful and effective solutions to the challenges at hand while showing greater empathy to those who should be heard.

Parker Brickley notes that a person looking to improve their active listening skills can help themselves by asking questions that lead the other person to provide more insights and show the other person that their leader cares. Employees and clients want to know that their opinions and feelings are heard. Questions like, “Can you expand on that, please?” and “Why do you think that?” show the other person that the leader is genuinely invested in their point of view. Other open-ended or specific questions can be employed as well. Parker Brickley notes that reading body language is often critical and can help keep the conversation on track to ensure that a question won’t cause the recipient any discomfort.

Parker Brickley also recommends suspending quick judgment. Clients or employees need to feel that they can speak their minds and will not be summarily judged. People easily pick up on interrupting signals as a sign that the person they are speaking with has formed their opinion already. It’s acceptable, of course, to have a different point of view. However, true leaders understand that, even if a person thinks differently from them, it does not mean that their perspective is easily dismissed. Even if that different perspective is not the best one, persuading, for example, a colleague of a different course of action is much easier if that person believes they have been listened to thoroughly.

Not every conversation will be a triumph just by using active listening. I wish leadership were that simple! However, Parker Brickley notes that it is a skill that can serve all of us well over time. Most people spend more than half their time listening but only retain a small fraction of that information afterward. Active listening is a tool to expand one’s emotional intelligence. It is a part of that all-important tool kit for all our interpersonal interactions. But it is a critical part of that tool kit.