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Are You Really Listening To What Others Are Saying?

Jan 29, 2008
People love to talk and sadly, they forget to listen, really listen to what others are saying. Active listening is both a skill and art for an effective two-way communication process. Whether you are a CEO or a garage mechanic, good listening skills will make you a better communicator, negotiator, and planner.

So You Say You're Listening

If you could videotape your daily activities including your tete-a-tetes with family, friends, and co-workers, you'd blush at the way you interrupt them in the middle of their speech, or the way you hurriedly finish their sentences for them. This reeks of arrogance and a careless attitude about the feelings of others. You should acknowledge that what they have to say is just as important as what you want to blurt out.

Have you thought about how you immediately dismiss a child's attempts at communicating with you? Perhaps you think that what the child is saying is not important because it is just kid trying to say something. There are more important things to do than listen to a kid, and this is a big mistake.

When a child is talking to you, stop what you are doing. Look at him and watch his body language and facial expressions if he is happy, sad, or afraid. Hold your tongue and let him have his piece and make responses, even single syllable ones. That will let him know you're listening and interested in what he has to say and encourage the child to tell you more. From these episodes, you'll be able to know how your child is doing and what help he or she needs.

The same thing is needed of you at work. When co-workers drop by your table in the cafeteria during lunch break, you might as well be ready to listen than talk. Don't have that notion that listening to your colleagues is just shutting up and letting your mind wander elsewhere. Listen actively with all your senses awake. Don't let any noise from the other tables disrupt you. Also ask questions if you want to be sure that you understood what your friend is trying to tell you.

How to Listen

Active listening is important during meetings. Sometimes, it cannot be helped when there are many distractions - the buzz of the photocopier, high heels clicking on the floor, and a multitude of other background noise. Tune them out and concentrate on the ongoing discussion.

Ask yourself questions like: "What is the speaker's point?" or "What is he telling me?" Provide feedback by asking him to elaborate or ask him to give more examples. Don't interrupt. Doing so may antagonize the person speaking. That would be a disaster if he is a customer.

Just relax and make yourself interested in everything being said, and analyze what is being said and unsaid. Hand gestures, body movements, and facial expressions will reveal more than words. Focus, observe, and analyze. If you really want to listen, you must establish eye contact, make responses that indicates you are listening, ask questions, encourage the speaker to elaborate and give some examples, and always thank the person for sharing his ideas and thoughts.
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