For many years I sold the Dale Carnegie Course on Effective Communications and Human Relations. Many of the people who enrolled in that course wanted to be better speakers and presenters. I reminded them that there was a lot more to being a better presenter than just speaking well. I often got the sense that they weren’t listening to me.
And that was going to create huge challenges for them in becoming an effective presenter. It would also greatly hinder their chances of being an effective communicator. Here’s the reality in today’s world…most people simply don’t listen. They already know enough. Their mind is already made up. They have no desire to have their thinking muddled up with facts.
So instead of actually communicating with someone they try to “out talk” them. Actual communication requires a great deal of listening. That’s a challenge for people because listening often requires a gap in the conversation. People think that pausing the conversation for a few seconds to linger upon the words of the speaker makes them seem stupid.
That causes people to be thinking about their response before the other person is done speaking. YOU CANNOT FULLY LISTEN TO SOMEONE WHILE YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT WHAT YOUR RESPONSE IS GOING TO BE.
Truly effective communicators are willing to risk looking stupid so that they can actually be smart.
Listening is literally two-thirds of effective communication. So let’s talk about listening.
Being a better listener is a valuable skill that can improve your relationships, communication, and understanding of others. Here are some ideas on how to become a better listener.
• When someone is speaking to you, make a conscious effort to focus on what they are saying.
• Eliminate distractions, put away your phone, and create a quiet, conducive environment for the conversation.
• Eye contact conveys that you are engaged and interested in the conversation.
• It also helps you read the speaker’s non-verbal cues and emotions.
• Allow the speaker to finish their thoughts before responding.
• Interrupting can be seen as disrespectful and disrupts the flow of the conversation.
• Try to understand the speaker’s perspective and emotions.
• Use verbal and non-verbal cues, such as nodding and facial expressions, to show that you are empathetic.
• Position your body in a way that is open and welcoming, signaling your receptiveness to the speaker.
• Avoid crossed arms, which can appear defensive.
• Reflect back what the speaker is saying to confirm your understanding.
• Use phrases like, “So, what I’m hearing is…” or “If I understand correctly…”
• If something is unclear or you need more information, ask open-ended questions to encourage the speaker to elaborate.
• Suspend judgment and preconceived notions about the speaker or their topic.
• Be open to different perspectives and experiences.
• Let the speaker take their time to express themselves fully.
• Avoid rushing the conversation or finishing their sentences.
• Stay in the moment and avoid thinking about your response while the other person is speaking.
• This can help you fully absorb the information and respond more thoughtfully.
• Keep your emotions in check and remain calm during the conversation.
• If you become emotional, it can be challenging to listen effectively.
• After the conversation, follow up on any commitments or promises you made during the discussion.
• This shows that you take the conversation seriously and are reliable.
• Ask for feedback from the speaker on how well you listened.
• Use this feedback to improve your listening skills further.
It is no coincidence that the most successful people are often also the most effective listeners. That success transcends business to positively impact every area of their lives. Becoming a better listener is an ongoing process that requires practice and self-awareness. By consistently applying these ideas, you can improve your listening skills and build stronger, more meaningful relationships with others…in business and in life.