Are you Listening?
Gary Begin/Sound Advantage Media
It amazes me as I travel as a Radio Consultant, how many people don’t listen! We don’t listen to our audience, our advertisers or our colleagues. As an industry and a society, we need to hear what people are really saying. Listening is one of the most important abilities you can possess. How well you listen has a direct influence on your job efficiency, as well as the quality of your relationships with others.
• We listen to acquire information
• We listen to comprehend
• We listen for enjoyment
• We listen to gain knowledge
You’d think with all the listening we’re supposed to be doing, we’d be good at it!
Recent research suggests we only remember between 25 to 50 percent of what we actually hear. That means when you speak to your boss, listeners, colleagues or spouse for 10 minutes, they’re paying attention to less than half of the conversation. This is miserable!
If you turn that around it reveals when you are being presented with information or receiving directions, you are not hearing the entire message either. You can only anticipate the important parts are captured in your 25-50 percent, but what if they’re not?
Obviously, listening is a skill we can all benefit from improving upon. By becoming an improved listener, you’ll increase your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate. Furthermore, you will avoid conflict and misunderstandings. All of which are essential for career achievement!
A good communication ability needs a strong level of self-awareness. By understanding your personal type of communicating, you will go much further creating lasting impressions with others. The way to become a better listener is to practice “dynamic listening.” This is when you make a conscious attempt to hear not only the words but understanding the whole message being sent.
Don’t become too distracted by everything else around you, or by forming counter arguments in your head when the other person stops speaking. You can’t get bored by losing focus on what the other person is saying. This will contribute to poor listening and understanding.
To improve your listening abilities, you need to acknowledge to the other person you’re listening to what’s being said. To understand the importance of this action, ask yourself if you’ve ever been involved in a conversation when you wondered if the other person was listening at all. Is your message coming across, or is it worthwhile continuing to speak. You want to avoid the feeling as if you’re speaking to a brick wall.
Acknowledgement is as easy as a simple nod of the head. You don’t have to show agreement, just an indication that you’re listening. Body language will acknowledge you are listening while keeping your attention on the conversation and not let your mind wonder.
Respond to the speaker in a way that will both encourage him or her to continue speaking, so you may receive all the information that you need. While nodding show’s you’re interested, a sporadic question or comment to recap what has been said communicates you understand the message as well.
Here are five fundamentals of dynamic listening:
1. Pay Attention
Give the speaker your undivided attention, and acknowledge the message. Realize that non-verbal communication “speaks” loudly.
• Observe the speaker directly
• Place distracting thoughts aside
• Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal!
• Stay away from environmental elements. For example, side conversations
2. Indicate you’re listening
Practice your own body language to convey your attention
• Occasionally nod
• Use facial expressions like smiling
• Make sure your posture is open and attractive
• Inspire the speaker with small verbal comments like yes or no
3. Encourage Feedback
Personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs will distort what we hear. As a listener, you must understand what’s being said. This could require some reflection and ask questions.
• Reflect what’s been said by paraphrasing, “What I’m hearing is,” and “Sounds like you are saying.” This is a terrific reflection tool.
• Ask questions that will clarify certain aspects of the conversation. “What do you mean when you say,” “Is this what you mean?”
• Periodically summarize the speaker’s comments.
4. Postpone Judgment
Interrupting is nothing more than a waste of time. It will frustrate the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.
• Permit the speaker to finish before asking questions
• Don’t interrupt with counter arguments
5. React Appropriately
Dynamic listening is a representation for respect and understanding. You’re accumulating information and perspective. Nothing is enhanced by attacking the speaker or putting him or her down.
• Be candid, open and honest when you respond
• Support your opinions with respect
• Handle the other person the way you would like to be treated
There’s a lot of concentration and willpower to become a dynamic listener. There are a lot of old habits to overcome and they’re tough to break. If you’re listening habits are as terrible as most people, there’s a lot of old habit-breaking to perform.
Keep reminding yourself that the goal is to hear what the other person is saying. Concentrate on the message by setting aside other thoughts and behaviors. Ask questions, reflect and paraphrase to guarantee you understand the message. Begin using dynamic listening immediately and you will become a much better communicator, improve workplace productivity, and acquire better personal relationships.