What we have here is a failure to communicate! That line from Cool Hand Luke highlights the consequences of miscommunication. Lack of real communication is one of the biggest causes of dysfunctional relationships in our business and personal lives.
We communicate to get an expected response from someone else. But sometimes, in fact often, we do not get the response we expect.
One powerful reason for this failure is that we talk more than we listen. We are so concerned with making our own points and having someone understand us that we do not take the time to understand the other person. How often do we try to insert our own opinions to try to persuade others?
Communication requires a sender of the message and a receiver—that is to say that communication is a two-way process. That means we must listen to hear and understand the other person.
We need to listen twice as much as we talk. That is why we have two ears and one mouth. In order to connect with others, we have to understand this two-way process. 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 of the talking.
Active listening is not just listening but listening to understand. Try improving your active listening by doing these 10 things:
1. Stop Talking. You can’t talk and listen at the same time.
2. Focus on the other person. Give the other person your undivided attention.
3. Show active participation. Nod, ask questions, try to understand and give your full attention.
4. Empathize. Take a moment to understand the other person’s viewpoint even if you disagree.
5. Keep an open mind. Be very slow to disagree or criticize. Ask questions to probe for understanding.
6. Have patience for people who take longer to express themselves.
7. Nonverbal signals have more meaning than the words. Are the nonverbal signals in sync with the words?
8. Watch for your nonverbal signals and control your emotions.
9. Provide feedback. For example, paraphrase with, "What I'm hearing is," and "Sounds like you are saying."
10. Use humor. 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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