Thursday, August 10, 2017

Are you LISTENING to me? Well, probably NOT!

When I say the word; "communication", what comes to mind? Likely you think of someone speaking, either publicly or inter-personally. You might  have even though of MASS communication which brings to mind TV and radio. Either of which involves someone talking. Have you ever stopped to think listening is part of that communication? In fact, it's exactly fifty per cent. It doesn't really matter what someone says if there is no one there to listen. Without the other participant in the communication process, the idea put forth might as well be an individual thought never leaving the senders mind. It's like that old adage, "if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it... who cut it down", or something like that.          

As a public speaker, I am all too aware of the importance of constructing thoughts in such a way, it will be understood and hopefully, well received by my audience. Also important are vocal qualities and platform skills. However, I am completely at the mercy of my listeners as to whether they WANT to receive my message. When it comes to small groups or talking one-on-one, the same concept applies. The effectiveness of my idea or concept is only as good as someone who is willing to hear and accept it. Again, I am at their mercy. We have all had those conversations where we were not sure our partner was truly listening, or perhaps we even "zoned out" ourselves. Why in our culture, do we put such an emphasis on the one doing the talking as the one who is active, engaged or putting forth an effort when it comes to sharing ideas? We view the one making the noise as someone DOING something, but what about the receiver? Is that person not also supposed to be actively engaged in the conversation?    

Indeed, "active listening" is a skill, unfortunately, not one appreciated my most people today. Many will be polite and allow someone else to finish his or her thought, but the entire time they are deep in thought as to what they will say next. "Quiet time" is only long enough for someone to shut up. But when the shoe is on the other foot, can we be assured to receive better consideration? That's why I like to quiz my listeners with "what are YOUR thoughts on that"? In truth, we've all been caught off guard at one time or another. Here are a few pointers to help you listen more actively; 

Rest - your mind. Don't jump to a conclusion of what you think the other person is going say next and suspend judgement until they have completely finished their thought.

Resist - the urge to interrupt with your own thought or point of view. Instead, when you have a salient point write a one-word note to prompt yourself to visit that idea later. We must also resist the urge to judge. Allow the talker to finish his or her statement. Scrutinize his or her thought only after that person has completely explained the idea. 

Respond - with short signs of attentiveness such as; "oh", uh-huh" and "I see". Short questions, such as, "What happened next?" will show your communication partner you are listening. Also, send visual cues that you are engaged in what the person is saying by nodding your head and uncrossing your arms. 

Restate - on occasion, in your own words to let the listener know you truly internalized the point they were making. Comments like "So, you're telling me your challenge with this project is..." assures both parties are on the same page. 

Reiterate - what you believe to be key points of what the speaker is saying. This could even be done in the form of a question and followed up with "tell me more about that". 

Reflect - on the entire message when the other is done talking. You may even want to apply what you heard to your own experiences or something that affects you. How could what you just learned HELP you?

By following these simple concepts, you can eliminate much confusion which might otherwise accompany a dialogue. Not only does this apply to interpersonal speech but to sales calls as well. By simply listening, you may uncover a new need or unstated objection that will eventually lead to the sale. When someone is talking, just be patient, hear them out and when it's your turn to speak, insist they do the same.

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