One of the most important skills I bring to the ombuds role is listening. It’s one of our ombuds super powers! For many people who visit the office, it’s what they are seeking. Someone to listen.
Let me note that listening does not mean one agrees; instead, it means one is focused on fully hearing and understanding what is said. Often its the story of the person’s situation, concern, issue or problem. When its “heard” by the ombuds, a first step toward engagement can then be taken. So, what does one do to be a skilled listener? I recently came across a “Listening Skills Checklist” by management consultant Kate Otting (Interaction Management Associates) that covered a lot of ground.
Here’s her list for all of us hoping to be skilled listeners!!
I don’t judge what is being said
I don’t assume I understand the intent behind what or how the person communicates
I resist the urge to challenge the truth or ask investigative questions
I make effective eye contact
I use appropriate facial and hand gestures
I avoid actions or body language suggesting boredom, impatience or disappointment
I avoid interrupting and don’t speak more than necessary
I restate or paraphrase what the other person has said
I ask clarifying questions
I ask open-ended questions
I acknowledge what the person is saying
I validate key points, even if I disagree
I communicate empathy
I listen carefully, even if I do not like the person or what is being said
I resist the urge to be defensive of myself, beliefs or values
I don’t offer gratuitous apologies or promises
There is no passive-aggressive tone or message in my words or body language
I am compassionate towards the other person
I recognize the role my own filters and biases play in my ability to hear what is said
I don’t problem solve, give advice or direct the conversation, I JUST LISTEN!
That’s an incredible list for us all. I aspire to do these every day as ombuds yet know I will fall short at times – I’ll keep trying!
If you want someone to listen, Go Ombuds!