The Art of Listening, Part 3–5 Steps to Becoming a Better, Active Listener

“Just because it popped into your head, doesn’t mean you should blurt it out.” 

How many times has someone cut you off in mid-sentence with some uttering, either relevant, or completely irrelevant to what you are trying to communicate?  How many times have you done it to someone else?

Sadly, most of us are acutely unaware that we even do it; and shockingly, some people actually believe it’s perfectly acceptable behavior. Some individuals live with the additional hardship of having medical issues that may intensify bad listening behavior, but the bottom line is,

Poor listening is unacceptable behavior.

How would you feel if in the middle of sharing your emotional, painful experience with someone the listener blurted out “oh, now there’s an outfit I could wear—how cute!”? Pretty rude, and insensitive, right?

What if, as you are looking for serious, specific feedback to a problem, the listener is constantly checking their IPhone messages, and clicking away?  Pretty rude and insensitive, right?

Or what if, as you tried to share your cliff hanging story, the listener kept interrupting you with statements about what you should do, or what they would do….all of it being inconsequential since the event already occurred?  Pretty rude, and insensitive, right?

In our ever-revolving “self” filled worlds, we often bull doze over others in their quest to simply share information, or tell their story.

For the person trying to speak, often, it pays to be proactive and pre-empt your “floor time” with a blanket statement to your listeners.  If you are not looking for an exchange of information throughout your communication, tell them straight out before you begin that you would like to share something in its entirety, asking everyone to hold all comments and questions until you have completed what you have to say.  Another, more abrupt response would be to simply stop talking.  Once your listeners realize you’ve stopped talking, politely suggest you continue with your information another time, when they are better able to listen.

In business situations, strong listening skills are especially critical.  It can be a costly mistake to interrupt a prospect who you are trying to garner business from.  If you ask your prospect a specific question, then interrupt them with everything you think you know about it and how you can solve their problem—you’ve just committed a heinous business crime. You’ve sent the message loud and clear that what they have to say is not as important as what you do.  Chances are, that person is not going to volley with you for the floor, or politely correct you.  Perhaps they become very quiet and reserved.  Or they look away, or smile and nod, and look at their watch.  You blew it.  You have come across as a “know it all”, made a terrible first impression, likely lost their attention, respect, and possibly the sale.

What can you do to make sure you are not perceived as a poor listener?  Put that ego aside. Begin practicing today, to improve your listening skills! The first thing to do is physically prepare to listen.  Take several deep breaths, in through the nose, out through the mouth.  Are you calm?  Great.  Now check yourself at the door, and read on.

5 Steps To Active Listening

  1. Focus on the other person. Turn off the phone. Turn away from the TV, or any other distractions around you. If possible, face them in the same sitting or standing position they are in. Look them in the eyes as they speak to you, noting their expressions. Give an occasional nod to show them you are listening.
  2. Do Not Interrupt. Pay attention to the person talking and do not start “talking in your head” with possible arguments, suggestions, or comments and blurt them out. Do not allow yourself to wander off in the privacy of your mind with a conclusion while they are speaking to you. Do not decide you know how to solve it, what to do with it, or what they are about to say next. Commit to yielding the floor to them until they say they are done.
  3. Become completely “other-aware” and listen carefully to their words. You checked yourself at the door. Now it’s all about the speaker. Notice the inflection used as they speak. Are they being facetious? Are they being serious? When appropriate, ask open ended questions to clarify anything they said that you don’t understand, or want more detail about. Be aware of and listen for what they don’t say, as well as their actually stated message.
  4. Restate back to the person your understanding of what they said. “Is this what you mean?” “Did you say…?”
  5. Ask any lingering open ended questions for clarification, then present your response as appropriate. Continue to look for feedback from the other party, engaging them with eye contact, and gestures as appropriate.

Want to make a great impression? A very positive thing you can do as a result of active listening is come up with a discussion item list. Often a conversation will lead to a number of off shoot-topics that make for good additional conversations. Rather than try to dump them all into the main conversation, hold them aside on a list, and when appropriate, propose discussing one, or more of them at another time, if right then is not the right time. This is a sure fire way to demonstrate to the speaker what a good listener you are!

“Earlier you’d mentioned _ _ _ _ _, can you tell me more about it?”

As your active listening skills improve, you may come to find that in return, you receive a stronger listening audience as well. Having actually heard the whole message, you will have a deeper understanding of, and a better ability to, respond to situations and opportunities. People appreciate being heard. They appreciate clear feedback and action.

It is never too late to become the best listener you can be. Embrace the Art of Listening!

Contact PR Brady AdVentures for course offerings on Developing Active Listening Skills for you or your team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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