Good communication requires good listening. When we fail to listen effectively we respond to half truths and concocted mental fantasies. Without interactive listening, effective dialogue is impossible.
Many people would rather talk than listen. Some may feel that talking puts them in control while others think that it gains them credibility and respect. Some people talk just to hear the sound of their own voice.
To be good listeners, we must interact with the ‘sender(s). which means to be present and audibly hear what is being spoken, interpret the intent with which it is being delivered, evaluate the degree of clarity and be ready to respond. Once having done so, check to see the clarity of your understanding. Remember – the owness to clearly understand rests with the listener, not the speaker! This may sound easy but it does not come naturally to most of us. It has proven to be a learned skill which requires practice and discipline to do it well. Here are some things for you to consider.
- Equip yourself to listen. Prepare by acquiring the appropriate information necessary to understand what is being talked about. Have a note pad and pen ready to make notes. Also have your computer turned on. Being ready makes all the difference.
- Eliminate distractions. Have your desk in order, turn off your e mail and place unrelated files out of sight. This will enable you to focus. A good rule of thumb is to be ready for the event ten minutes before it begins. Take some deep breaths, relax and center yourself so you can show up fully for the moment. In other words – be present.
- Read body language. Notice how receptive the other person is to what you are saying. If you are speaking one-to-one with someone and you notice that person crossing his arms or tapping his fingers on the chair, you may want to check in with the listener to see if this is the appropriate time to gain their attention. If you are on the phone you must listen not only to the words but also to the tone of voice for hidden clues that may convey the feelings of the speaker. Unusually long pauses may suggest hesitation to response – find out why. Enthusiasm indicates that the listener wants to hear more.
- Be a participatory listener. Your response must reflect the understanding of the content of the speaker, indicating that you really understand what is being said. Do not compose your response before you have heard the entire message. This will allow you to be more accurate when you respond. Set your emotions aside and listen to the other person’s needs, concerns and emotional state.
- Ask questions for clarification. Take notes to jog your memory. This helps you to focus more fully and not miss salient points. You can compose your questions by saying things like… ‘There’s something I didn’t quite understand. Can you help me to see how_________?’ or ‘Could you say a little more about__________’ or ‘I’m not clear on that third point. Could you clarify what you meant when…’
- Consolidate your understanding of the conversation. One way to do this is to say, ‘Now let me see if I’ve got this’. Then proceed to share with the speaker your ‘take’ on the conversation. If there are areas where you have missed something or interpreted it incorrectly, the speaker will have a chance to clarify.
As mundane as it may sound, to ensure clarity to get buy-in, Listening Is A Contact Sport. It has to be a two way street. It is referred to as a dialogue for which there is no substitute. It is the number one communication skill and engagement skill for getting the message right to assure the highest performance result.