Listening properly is a key tool for personal effectiveness, whether you’re trying to influence others (first need to understand them), increase sales (same point), make better decisions, delegate… In fact, the list is endless, whenever there are other people involved, better listening skills will really help. The following five tips will really help, my favourite is to look and listen for congruence – it can even be fun!
Sometimes the point isn’t just to listen more effectively, you need the other person to know that you’re listening. If that doesn’t make sense think of a time when you’ve been talking to somebody who wasn’t listening, or you weren’t sure – how did you feel? Angry, frustrated, ineffective?
Better listening tip 1: Show you are listening.
You can help the speaker by demonstrating listening, non vocals sounds (uh ha), non verbal signs (nodding), and keeping eye contact will help the speaker. By focusing on doing these, it will also make you stay focused on the speaker. Be aware of what you’re doing, what fidgeting habits do you have, don’t doodle (or whatever your habit is). If you have a trusted colleague you could ask for feedback on your fidget habits, it’s amazing how many of these we have without realising.
Better listening tip 2: One thing at a time.
Do not be tempted to sit and send a text, fiddle with the iPhone and update your emails or twitter. Do not allow yourself to think about all the other pressing points at the office. Concentrate on their message, what are the key points they’re making, which back up points are they making and which of the main ones do they support? Think about their points and how they’re structured; you have to concentrate on them, not your iPhone, to do this.
Better listening tip 3: Study the speaker.
Sometimes it can be easy to drift off of while somebody is talking, then your mind wanders. Thinking about their message will help. But also study them; how are they standing, how does their voice vary with different parts of the message, what colour are their eyes. Learn the early signs of when your mind wanders and concentrate on the speaker.
Better listening tip 4: Look and listen for congruence.
If you concentrate on their words and their body language you can start to tell which parts they’re comfortable and less comfortable with. Listen for changes in vocal tone and speed of speech; these are good indicators as well. This is a great way to make yourself really focus on them and their message; it will also help you pick up hidden nuances.
Better listening tip 5: Summarise
Do you have an opportunity to check your understanding and enhance their presentation? Summarise the main points as you heard them. This is easy in a small conversation, but can also be done in a larger presentation. The questions you ask can effectively summarise their key points.
Active listening is a skill that can really help you to understand messages more deeply; just think of the extra information you could get from somebody if you understood more of their message. If you want some more tips, click here to download from a series of free reports and download the help sheet on active listening.
What do you do to ensure that it is known that you are listening?
Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees. Click here for your copy.