[ctt template=”8″ link=”6Sb4k” via=”no” ]Listening to someone and hearing them are two different things.[/ctt]
Let me start by asking you a question.
How good a listener are you?
For example, in a business meeting, how closely do you listen to what your co-worker or client is saying? How much of their message do you hear?
Are you paying attention or are you:
- fidgeting with your smartphone
- thinking about the next item on the agenda; or worse still,
- thinking about your answer or rebuttal to what they’re saying before they’ve finished talking?
I especially hate that last one because it clearly demonstrates the other person is not listening to and hearing you.
Listening to someone and hearing them are two different things.
I can hear what you’re saying but if I am not paying attention, I won’t listen to your whole message. If you’re lucky, I would have listened to and heard 25 – 50% of your message (according to research). That’s terrible!
Imagine giving instructions to a colleague or presenting to clients and they haven’t listened to you and consequently haven’t understood your whole message.
What does it say about them?
It says they don’t respect you or you and your message are not important enough to merit their attention.
That’s a recipe for bad business relationships which will have an impact on your career and business success.
So, what’s the answer?
You need to be an active listener.
Active listening is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, try to understand the complete message being sent.
In order to do this you must pay attention to the other person very carefully.
You cannot allow yourself to become distracted by whatever else may be going on around you, or by forming counter arguments that you’ll make when the other person stops speaking. Nor can you allow yourself to get bored, and lose focus on what the other person is saying.
All of these contribute to a lack of listening and understanding.
Active listening has nothing to do with your level of English.
Yes, that’s right. Active listening has nothing to do with your level of English. You can be excellent in English and still be a lousy listener.
So whether you’re a proficient English speaker or less so, you can certainly learn to succeed in business with English by learning how to become an active listener in English.
Here are 5 tips you can learn and put into practice immediately.
#Tip One: Pay Attention
Give the speaker your undivided attention, and acknowledge the message. Recognize that non-verbal communication also “speaks” loudly.
- Look at the speaker directly.
- Put aside distracting thoughts.
- Don’t mentally prepare your answer.
- Avoid being distracted by environmental factors. For example, side conversations, your blinking smartphone screen.
- “Listen” to the speaker’s body language (posture, eye contact and so on).
#Tip Two: Show the speaker you’re listening to them
Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.
- Nod occasionally.
- Smile and use other facial expressions.
- Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting.
- Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, uh huh and I see.
#Tip 3: Give Feedback
Our personal assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear.
As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions.
- Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “So what I think you’re saying is…”,” and “Sounds like what you’re suggesting is….” are great ways to reflect back.
- Ask questions to clarify certain points. “What do you mean when you say.” “Is this what you mean?”
- Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically.
#Tip 4: Don’t interrupt
Let the other person finish speaking.
Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and stops you from understanding the full message.
- Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions.
- Don’t interrupt with counter-arguments.
Listen to what someone has to say before you offer your opinion. As a speaker, I especially find this habit annoying because you end up having to repeat what you’ve said.
#Tip 5: Respond Appropriately
Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down (making them feel inferior).
- Be candid, open, and honest in your response.
- Assert your opinions respectfully.
- Treat the other person in a way that you would want to be treated.
It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be an active listener but in the long run (over time) it will build your confidence and reputation as a serious and respectful business communicator. People will respond to you much more positively irrespective of the language you’re using.
Active listening brings better and more meaningful collaboration. It goes beyond language and cultures and that can only mean one thing: good, successful business.
Before I go….