I had a discussion one dinner time with my Diyosa, and we talked about young people not listening anymore. Conversations are hard to come by these days, she says.
It’s not any different in the corporate world. Executives have little time to read, much less to listen. But isn’t it the essence of why they are paid so heftily?
You listen, you learn, you grow. Sometimes, shutting your mouth and letting others speak can do wonders. Misunderstandings are settled, clarifications are sought, agreements are reached.
Corporate Coach (“CorporateCoach” <firstname.lastname@example.org>) lists ways to effective listening skills. Here’s how you can achieve them.
- Use verbal signs. Indicate that you are listening with an occasional word or sound: yes, uh-uh, OK, fine, I see, Mmm, right. This tells the speaker you are still there (if you are on the telephone) and also encourages him to keep talking. But beware, if these signs are overdone, you can sound condescending. If you are in his presence, small nods, eye contact and other body language signals can demonstrate continued interest.
- Be sensitive. You will gain more information, more effectively if you are sensitive to the underlying feelings and mood of the speaker, which may or may not be directly expressed. Try to recognise the fundamental direction of his intention and energy.
- Seek clarification. Ask questions to get additional information or to clarify what you have already heard. This will help you to expand the discussion and explore all avenues. Questions that are relevant, reflective and based on previous answers will demonstrate that you have been paying attention. Remember the difference between open and closed questions, and use an appropriate style.
- Restate and summarize. It can help to restate or paraphrase key facts as they are given. Summarizing from time to time will bring the discussion into focus. Both will help confirm your interpretation and understanding of the information, often serving as a springboard for further discussion.
- Take notes. Never try to write everything down, just make a note of the key points and words. This will act as a reference point during the conversation and help jog your memory afterwards.
- Concentrate. Focus your mind on the discussion and consciously tune in, especially when you are on the telephone. Try to ignore distractions, which can be of two kinds. Physical distractions include background noise (at either end), lack of time, bad lines, people putting notes under your nose or talking to you while you are on the phone, lack of organisation etc. Psychological distractions include personal emotion, such as feelings towards the speaker or the subject matter. Better still, prepare yourself so that distractions do not occur.
- Think before you speak. As the listener, you should be doing less of the talking. Try not to interrupt, jump to conclusions, make assumptions or finish sentences for them.
- Ask questions. Construction: Include what, when, where, who, how much, how often. Start broad and then narrow to increase focus. Follow their interest and use their words.
- Process: Ask – listen – observe – ask.