Listening is one of the most crucial skills ANY Union Representative can have! Once you’ve mastered this skill you’re objectives will become much clearer. Members will learn to trust you with their issues as it shows you are sympathetic and concerned about each member. They will view you as a leader and they will come to you to voice their concerns
You must be able to listen to the problems, concerns and issues of members and co-workers. By identifying workplace problems, stewards can engage members in developing solutions. Listening is a skill that must be developed and practiced. There are many, many reasons why it is important to be a good listener:
- Helps in figuring out management’s position so you can counter it.
- It helps get facts from a member, who has a grievance.
- Helps members let off steam so they can try to solve problem.
- Shows you are sympathetic and concerned about each member.
- Allows you to get to bottom of an issue and find out what is really bothering a member.
- Helps members to talk about the problem and perhaps work out an answer.
Listening earns respect, trust and commitment, and constitutes superior leadership. Below are some tips for listening:
- Pay attention to what the member, non-member or manager is saying.
- Be sympathetic, show interest in the issue, problem or complaint that is being described; maintain eye contact.
- Concentrate and don’t fake attention or allow yourself to be distracted.
- Don’t interrupt. It’s impossible to listen when you are also talking.
- Ask questions if you are unclear or confused or don’t understand something the person is saying. Use an encouraging tone; ask questions which will encourage the person to explain more, not questions which can only be answered with a yes or no.
- Don’t Interrupt give the person a chance to say what is on his/her mind; be patient!
- Don’t second guess and don’t assume knowing what the speaker is going to say; don’t put words in the speaker’s mouth. You might be wrong…
- Make the member feel comfortable. Sit down with the person; don’t fiddle; look the person in the eye; help person to relax.
- Don’t Lecture; don’t give advice or provide answers before person has had a chance to explain the situation.
Help the member to work out the answer! Often a person will “think-out loud” and end up figuring out their answer, or cooling down enough to be more rational. If you are a good sounding board, it will help the member, you and the union. No problem or idea can be solved or considered unless it is accurately understood. Good listening skills are necessary as the first step in addressing any problem or idea. Stewards must practice and develop good listening skills in order to be successful.