Become An Active Listener And Reap The Rewards.
Listening is one of the most important skills that any professional can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your business success, career progression and on the quality of your relationships with others.
We do not listen well enough – at best we will only remember around 50% of what we hear and if, for example, we are at a seminar, or siting in a lecture at University, where there is just verbal communication alone, it is likely that listening to a 60 minute talk we will remember about 2% of the total input (around 1.5 minutes).
The way to improve your listening skills is to practice “active listening.” This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, try to understand the complete message being sent. You must not allow yourself to become distracted by whatever else may be going on around you, or by forming counter arguments that you’ll make when the other person stops speaking. Nor can you allow yourself to get bored, and lose focus on what the other person is saying. All of these contribute to a lack of listening and understanding.
Becoming an Active Listener
There are five key elements of active listening. They all help you ensure that you hear the other person, and that the other person knows you are hearing what they say.
- Pay Attention
Give the speaker your undivided attention, and acknowledge the message. Make the link between verbal and non-verbal communication.
- Look at the speaker directly.
- Put aside distracting thoughts.
- Don’t mentally prepare a confrontational response!
- Avoid being distracted by the side conversations that are going on or visual distractions.
- Take good note of the speaker’s body language.
- Show That You Are Listening
Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.
- Nod occasionally.
- Smile and use other facial expressions.
- Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting.
- Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, and I see.
- Provide Feedback
Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions.
- Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is,” and “Sounds like you are saying,”
- Ask questions to clarify certain points.
- Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically.
- Suspend Any Immediate Judgment, However Tempting
Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.
- Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions.
- Don’t interrupt with counter arguments.
- Make An Appropriate Response
Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You do not generate any positive advantage by being confrontational or responding badly – how would you feel if this was done to you?
- Be candid, open, and honest in your response.
- Assert your opinions respectfully.
One final thought on the Laws of Biology – we have two ears ad one mouth – there is a reason for that!
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