by Brian M. Salvaggio, Assistant Vice President, Student Affairs
How are we doing when it comes to listening to others? I would say not so well. As a society we are quick to give out opinion and not truly hear what others have to say. As a manager, a colleague, parent or spouse we are challenged everyday to be a good listener. So many things get in our way.
When we focus ONLY on how to speak and convey our message our communication strategies is only half working. Good communication is a two way street. True communication exist when the speaker and the listener are both active in the process.
The fast pace of our society often minimizes our listening roll. We take it for granted and assume if we are present with another person, we are listening.
Here are a few tips and reminders for improving listening skills:
1) Seek Clarification:
Ask the speaker to say more, give an example or to further explain their point. For those of us trained in active listening skills, the use of good eye contact, leaning forward and nodding are skills we need to sharpen from time to time.
2) Avoid Distractions:
To be present with another person requires us to shut off out the interruptions, phone calls, e-mails, smart- phones, etc. Nothing is more annoying to another person than someone who is using their active listening skills mentioned above but paying attention to something else. Give your staff, spouse, children, and colleagues your undivided attention. Multitasking is a skill few are good at, especially men.
3) Try Listening with Empathy:
Put yourself “in the shoes of the other person” and avoid trying to fix things or give your advice. Check out with the person what they need. Sometime people just need to vent and they are not looking for us to solve all of their problems. Knowing this up front can make the exchange be more productive and engaging.
4) Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Cues:
Since about 75 percent of what people say is non-verbal it makes sense to become more aware of what their non verbals are saying. Check out their eye contact, posture, hand movements, etc. Do their words match the tone, volume or body movements?
5) Wait your Turn:
Let the speaker finish before you begin to talk. Speakers appreciate having the chance to say everything they would like to say without being interrupted. When you interrupt, it looks like you aren’t listening, even if you really are.
Most people want to feel listened to, understood and heard. Being a good listener take practice even for the more experienced. Try out these steps and hopefully you will experience a better connection to those who are most
important to you.