What’s the opposite of talking?
It’s not listening…it’s waiting to talk.
And that leads to a breakdown in communications, which in turn can lead to inefficiencies, blunders, poor morale and a decreasing bottom line.
How important is listening?
Studies indicate it’s the number one skill most employers want and one of the most vital skills management uses in evaluating promotions.
Which begs the question: if listening is such an important skill, why isn’t your organization teaching it?
Here are some suggestions on how to listen—really listen.
Roger Darlington, writing in “How to Be a Good Listener” http://www.rogerdarlington.me.uk/Listening.html, lists several key attributes for being a good listener. Among them are:
- Listen with an open mind and an open heart
- Concentrate totally on the speaker and what is being said
- Give the speaker visual and/or oral encouragement
- Don’t interrupt
- Don’t rush in to fill a silence
In a Mind Tools article, “Active Listening: Hear What People Are Really Saying” http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm, “active listening” is defined as making a conscious effort to hear not only the words but, more importantly, trying to understand the complete message being sent.
To achieve this you must disregard distractions, resist the urge to form counter arguments and avoid losing focus.
Active listening includes:
- Giving your undivided attention
- Using body language to indicate you’re listening
- Repeating what you think the speaker is saying or asking for clarification if you’re not sure
- Avoiding interrupting because it frustrates the speaker and inhibits your ability to fully understand what’s being said
- Responding candidly, honestly and respectfully
Listening when someone vents
What do you do when someone comes into your office and begins to rant?
The normal reaction is to calm them down or urge them to cool off. Often these attempts are a waste of time.
Mark Goulston’s article, “How to Listen When Someone Is Venting” in The Harvard Business Review http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/05/how_to_listen_when_someone_is.html suggests you ask the human volcano the following three questions:
- What are you most frustrated about? This often has the beneficial effect of lancing a boil. When they’ve finished telling you, pick out some emotional words (never, messed up, criticized me) and ask them to tell you more. This helps to further drain their anger.
- What are you most angry about? Don’t disagree with them or start a debate. Encourage them to tell you more and don’t interrupt.
- What are you really worried about? This is often the core of their emotion wound. If you’ve remained neutral they’re more likely to tell you what they’re really worried about.
Afterwards show you understand their anger, acknowledge you can’t change the past and offer to help them check their options of where to go from here.
What are some of the effective listening techniques you use?
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA marketing communications firm. For a powerful PR campaign that makes you stand out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at email@example.com. Or visit www.dsprel.com.