Listening is the most identified way to show someone that you respect them. However, it is also very difficult.
Why is it difficult? Because:
- We are eager to influence our audience. So eager, that we deny them the experience of having been listened to.
- We have a difficult time setting aside our preconceived notions. We make horrible assumptions about each other. Read about it in more depth here.
However, the best of us realize that we do not have all the answers or even all the right questions. Therefore, listening is paramount.
Here is the optimal listening process:
- Listen thoroughly to the speaker
- Develop an understanding of what is being communicated
- Diagnose your view of what is being said
- Decide how you would like to respond
Does this sound familiar? It is Habit 5 of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. “Seek first to understand, and, then, to be understood.”
Instead, most of us speak to an apathetic audience, which may or may not hear our message.
“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”- George Bernard Shaw
Having adopted a solid listening process, how else could we become better listeners?
- Make the decision to own 100% of every conversation. Put everything into ensuring that your conversations are satisfying exchanges with mutual sharing.
- Focus on giving your conversational partner the experience of having been listened to. What an amazing gift!
- As you listen, be prepared to paraphrase the speaker’s message back to them including nonverbals and emotions. That will discipline your listening.
- Be 100% present; This is not the time to multitask. Guard against your mind wandering
- Eliminate electronic and physical distractions from your environment.
- Guard against attention drop. Attention drop is when you hear an error or an interesting point in conversation that you would like to respond to. The problem is when you start to prepare to respond (or keep reminding yourself to remember your point). In doing that, you miss the balance of the communication. In order to avoid attention drop, write down your points that you wish to respond to. That will give your mind permission to focus and listen appropriately.
- Exhibit active listening by;
- Maintaining eye contact to avoid distraction.
- Using the appropriate body language to signal understanding (nod, smile, grimace, as appropriate)
- After listening, discipline yourself to pause, consider the speakers point of view, then, speak. Do not be afraid of the silence. There is a gap between stimulus and response. Use it wisely!
- Ask followup questions to clarify and ensure that you understand the message fully.
Just my opinion. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
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