It is true that we have two ears and one mouth. We should listen at least twice as much than we talk. Unfortunately, many times during a conversation we concentration on our talking points rather than being guided by what we are hearing.
This is not the best way be persuasive and certainly not a good way to communicate. I was on the receiving end of a conversation. It went like this…
I was questioning a salesperson about comparable features offered by two different iPhone telecommunications carriers. During the conversation I pointed out that one carrier had an additional benefit. The benefit was the ability to use the Internet while on a call. The salesperson quickly shot back something to the effect, “you’re not going to surf the internet while you are driving.” Did he hear that from me? No. I had a legitimate reason for wanting this service. When I am at a remote office, I can email something to a client while we are speaking. I do most of my work out of the office. He had his sales talking points and he was trying to close rather than listen to become a problem solver.
In order to connect with others, we have to communicate and communication is a two way street. I think it’s a fair statement to say that how well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others.
For some reason people place a high priority on speaking and presentation skills but do not place the same emphasis on listening skills. Without downgrading the importance of good speech, it would be better for us to upgrade the importance and quality of our listening habits. If we believe that empathy is an important trait then we should realize that is impossible to understand what someone is thinking or feeling if we do all the talking.
Here are 10 tips for improving your active listening skills:
- Stop Talking. You can’t talk and listen at the same time.
- Focus on the other person. Give the other person your undivided attention.
- Show active participation. Nod, ask questions, try to understand and give your full attention.
- Empathize. Take a moment to understand the other person’s viewpoint even if you disagree.
- Keep an open mind. Be very slow to disagree or criticize. Ask questions to probe for understanding.
- Have patience for people who take longer to express themselves.
- Nonverbal signals have more meaning than the words. Are the nonverbal signals in sync with the words?
- Watch for your nonverbal signals and control your emotions.
- Provide feedback. For example, paraphrase with, "What I'm hearing is," and "Sounds like you are saying."
- Lighten up. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. Appropriate humor can help to insure positive outcomes.
Your ability to understand and apply active listening principles will directly influence your results in your business, in sales, in leadership, and in your personal life.
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