Have you heard the expression “Hearing but not Listening” before?
Do you find yourself sometimes looking at someone speaking and hearing their voice but not actually listening to what they are saying and understanding their speech.
What makes people loose interest in what others are saying?
Boredom, uninteresting subject, long discussions, concentration problem etc.
How important is Active Listening in business?
Actually one of the important skills business people require is to have and master “Active Listening”!
Many people do not think twice about active listening and how important it is to be able to follow and remember someone’s else’s speech or the details of the discussion with them. Attention to other people’s speech especially in business is quite important and rewarding at the same time if we were able to stay tuned in to what is being said and followed the conversation attentively.
Sadly listening is not a skill you learn at school; however it is a skill that can be improved and achieved when one becomes conscious about how important skill it is to master.
Active listening does not only involve hearing what the other is saying, however it also depends on your interaction with the person during the conversing time. People speaking often can realise when someone is not “really listening” to what they are saying, therefore their tone of voice becomes even more unenergetic which can result in you “unconsciously” withdrawing more into our own thoughts.
We all love to talk and people to hear what we have to say more than us hearing what others have to say!
Try this: Next time you are in a meeting and someone is talking, pay attention to yourself and your own stream of thoughts. You will realise that after listening for a while you soon get distracted by thinking what you are going to say and how you are going to respond and listening to your own thoughts rather than following the details of the speech/conversation.
The basic need for a human being is to understand and be understood!
Consider how you would feel when someone is listening to you. A good feeling and connected to the person who is “understanding” what you are saying. Being understood gives people the feeling of “cared for”.
Did you know that the mind is seven times faster than it is possible to speak?
People who are looking to work on improving their abilities to listen need to slow down on the thinking part and try and concentrate on what is being said instead.
Jack Canfield “The Success Principles” has developed a way to improve his listening abilities. He set four questions that he would ask people where he would try and listen without distraction to the answers. He says that he tried those questions with several people and one of those was his sister where he started by asking the first question, listened carefully to the answer and so on... By the time they reached the fourth question, his sister said to him “This is the best conversation we had ever had together, and now I know what I need to do”. Jack canfield said that he was amazed by his sister’s reaction especially as he has not uttered in a word apart from asking his four questions!!!
Try setting your four questions and see whether it will work for you!
Here are more tips to help you improve your “Active listening” technique:
- Avoid Distraction- Enter the meeting or the discussion with a positive mentality,putting all worries and concers aside for the moment.
- Maintain Eye Contact- Use your eye contact and body position to encourage the speaker and signal your interest (e.g. Lean forward)
- Be Involved- Actively respond to questions and directions.
- Encouraging- Clarifying, restating (e.g. I thought I heard you say...).
- Reflecting (verbally)- To show how the other person feels (e.g. You seem quite passionate about this idea...).
- Summarising- To review the progress and pull ideas, facts together (e.g. These seem to be the key ideas you have expressed...). (What I hear you say is ...), (Let me make sure I understand you...).
- Building- Continue the discussion (e.g. Have you considered...).
- Reflecting (non verbal)- paying attention to their facial and body language to establish you conclusion (e.g. I can see that you smile everytime youspeak about the plan, you must be comfortable with the setting of your....).
All these tips summarise into one thing if put together (positive involvement).
A key point to achieving Effective Listening is to be able to put your own opinions and disagreement aside when listening to someone else. Eventually you will have the chance to express what you are thinking; however listening attentively and positively to someone else’s different views can put you as a business communicator in a strong position when it’s your turn to speak. As any argument you are about to make will be only from a strong position because you have allowed yourself to listen and understand!