Thursday, May 26, 2016

Communication Skills: The Under-rated Art of Really Listening

a cartoon man is yelling through a megaphone at a man who has earphones on and can't hear

Yes, really listening is an art. It is all about being invested in truly understanding what your speaker is trying to say. 

And there are so many ways NOT to do it…you can be obvious with earphones that block communication as in the illustration above or less obvious by simply not being fully present. Your thoughts are elsewhere. Either way, not truly listening is not just a bad habit; it’s rude, disrespectful and ineffective. How many of us have delivered our very best lecture with our teenager looking right at us only to discover that they did not hear or process a word? You feel frustrated and resentful.
In a business setting, poor listening can have serious consequences from entirely misunderstanding a boss’ request to undermining the trust of a co-worker. 

Part of the reason listening is difficult is that it requires concentration and putting the other person first. To listen well, you need to be other-center-focused and undistracted. Your thoughts must be entirely directed toward truly hearing and understanding the speaker. Good listening, as we point out regularly in our communication skills training, is a skill that can make you a more effective teammate and a more influential leader. Why? Because it shows that you care.

Here are two basic communication skills tips on how you can become a better listener:

  1. Focus on what the speaker is saying, not on what you will say next.Too often in conversations or meetings, our mind is concerned with how we will reply or add to the discussion rather than really understanding what is being said. We can miss important facts and feelings, embarrass ourselves by asking a question that has already been addressed, or discount the emotion behind the speaker’s remarks.
  2. Repeat back what you heard to check for understanding and to train yourself in better listening habits.Don’t overuse this technique or it can quickly become very annoying to others. But used judiciously, it can help you listen more carefully so you can summarize what you heard. Additionally, it gives you the listener a chance to make sure you understood accurately and gives the speaker a chance to clarify or correct a point.

Better listening can show you respect the speaker while inspiring trust. Observe the golden rule…listen to others as you would want them to listen to you.

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