“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” – Robert McCloskey
Today our lives are so busy and filled with distractions that we have a harder time than ever “tuning in”. Are poor listening skills hurting your personal relationships, your ability to become a great public speaker or even your career? Effective communication is a two way street, and by understanding your personal style of speaking and listening, you will have the ability to create good and lasting impressions with others.
The goal is to listen actively, in an engaged and involved way. When you are “Active listening” you are using every sense you have to hear what another person is saying. You are consciously trying to understand the messages being communicated.
Here are a few tips to help you improve your Listening Skills:
- Minimize Distractions- Whether your internal mind chatter or a loud TV, try your best to move to a quieter environment and take a moment to clear your head.
- Show that You Are Listening – Keep open and inviting body language, encourage the speaker with small verbal comments and respond respectfully and appropriately.
- Note the tone of Voice –What feelings does it evoke? What does it let you know about the speaker’s emotional state? Listen too for changes in tone, pitch or pauses within the speech or conversation as these can signal subject shifts or transitions.
- Ask Questions – Practice playing-back what ‘you think’ you heard. Use your own words to paraphrase and or/summarize what was said. Get confirmation or clarification.
- Be Respectful – Active listening helps you gain information and perspective. You add nothing by interrupting, attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down. Be open and honest in your responses but remember to offer your opinions respectfully.
Be deliberate with your listening and remind yourself constantly that your goal is to truly hear what the other person is saying. Set aside all other thoughts and behaviors and concentrate on the message. Ask questions, reflect, and paraphrase to ensure you understand the message. Implementing active listening will help you become a great communicator and improve your relationships at home and in the workplace.
For further reading here is a great article from Psychology Today about the difference between men and women in regards to listening.