All too often we are far more enthusiastic about talking than we are listening. Yet it is so vital if we are to communicate effectively. Most breakdowns in relationships are caused because people talk at each other without really making contact. Unless someone hears what has been said including the subtext the words have little value.
When we are actively listened to we feel valued and are far more likely to engage in negotiation and compromise.
Listening is about far more than words. Watching facial expression and body language is often a far more accurate barometer than the words that are being used.
Nice things being said where the smile doesn’t reach the eyes is an obvious example.
To be an effective listener it is vital that you listen actively.
10 tips to becoming a more effective listener
- Make eye contact.
- Read the body language of the talker. Are they relaxed, anxious, angry? Extremes are easy to recognise but often the message is much more subtle
- Mirror the talker’s body language- subtly, a gentle dance rather than a caricature.
- Show that you are listening, nod, make appropriate responses
- Ask relevant questions, ask them to clarify if you are not clear about their meaning
- Summarise: so what you are saying is……….
- Use open ended questions, the who, what, where, when,
- Be careful of the tone of your voice when you respond or ask questions. It is all too easy to come across as judgemental or as an interrogator from the Spanish Inquisition
- Use empathy. Acknowledge difficulties, but be careful not to fall into the trap of going into anecdotes from your experience. “ I sense that you are finding this rather difficult” rather than “Oh I know, it happened to me but mine was bigger, more difficult etc”
- Take a real interest, if you are simply going through the motions the lack of sincerity will be obvious to others. Leave your ego behind, concentrate on the other person.
Effective listening requires both deliberate efforts and a keen mind. Effective listeners appreciate the flow of new ideas and information. Organisations that follow the principles of effective listening are always informed timely, updated with the changes and implementations, and are always out of crisis situations. Effective listening promotes organisational relationships, encourages product delivery and innovation, as well as helps organisations to deal with the diversity in employees and customers it serves.
To improve your communication skills, you must learn to listen effectively. Effective listening gives you an advantage and makes you more impressive when you speak. It also boosts your performance.