Written by: Maureen Dorgan-Clemens
Being able to communicate well with others is one of the best life skills a person can develop. Someone who can effectively communicate thoughts, ideas, and feelings is better equipped for success both on the job and in personal relationships. Effective communication is much more than being able to talk; it is also the ability to listen and understand others.
Listening is so important that many top employers provide listening skills training for their employees. This is not surprising when you consider that good listening skills can lead to: better customer satisfaction, greater productivity with fewer mistakes, increased sharing of information and better conflict resolution. Developing the skills necessary for effective listening takes patience, practice and self-awareness. The more self-aware you become, the quicker you will learn good listening technique and the easier it will become to maintain it on a day to day basis. The following are tips to help you become an active listener:
Pay attention to the speaker
Give the speaker your undivided attention, and acknowledge the message. Recognize that non-verbal communication also “speaks” loudly. Tips include:
- Look at the speaker directly
- Put aside distracting thoughts
- Don’t mentally prepare your response, just listen.
Distractions come in two forms: Internal and external
Internal distractions are caused by your thoughts. Resist the temptation of just “pretending” to listen. If you feel your mind wandering, change body position and concentrate on the speaker’s words.
External distractions are those distractions in the environment. They can be minimized by shutting the door to your office, putting your phone on silent, turning the sound off on your computer, and letting others know you are in the middle of an important conversation.
Pay attention to nonverbal communication
Paying attention to what the speaker doesn’t say is as important as being attentive the words being spoken. 90% of all communication is conveyed non-verbally. We glean a great deal of information about each other without saying a word.
Look for non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and posture to get the full picture of what information the speaker is conveying.
Show that you’re listening
Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.
- Nod occasionally
- Smile and use other facial expressions
- Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like:
- “I hear what you are saying”
- “I like your ideas”
- “Tell me more about that”
At the end of your conversation, conclude with a summary statement or paraphrase what the person has told you. This technique benefits you as well as the listener because it tests to see if you have heard things correctly. If there are any misinterpretations the speaker will have an opportunity to correct you. A few key phrase starters include:
- “You were saying that…”
- “So what I hear you saying is…”
- “If I understand you right, you said…”
Listening actively means participating, both verbally and non-verbally. Good communicators know when to speak and when to listen. Using these skills at work allows you to enjoy more collaborative relationships, promote understanding, and resolve conflicts more easily.
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