Recently we attended a conference in Reading PA at Resource Associates, during which Tammy Kohl made a presentation on Listening. I would like to share with you some of the ideas and thoughts. It was a great subject and helpful to us all.
First consider on a scale of 0 to 100% what your level of efficiency is. 60% of the time we spend in communications is listening. Studies have shown that the average person listening skills are only 25 % efficient.
Preparing to Listen
Good preparation is essential for effective listening. Without it, it’s hard to listen to people successfully.
Before you have an important conversation, remove anything that may distract you from it, so that you can focus, and so that you can show the other person that she has your full attention. Switch off your cell phone, turn off instant messaging and email alerts, put your work away, close your meeting room door, and do what you can to make sure that you won’t be interrupted.
If you know that you won’t be able to offer the other person your full attention – for example, if you’re working on an urgent task – schedule a better time to speak. However, make sure that the other person knows that the conversation is important to you.
Also, do what you can to make the other person feel at ease. Use open body language, and a friendly tone.
If he indicates that he wants to speak about a sensitive subject, and if this is appropriate, remind him that the conversation is in confidence, and that he can be honest with you.
(If you’re a manager, there may be some things that you cannot keep confidential. If your conversation is beginning to encroach on these, make this clear to the other person.)
When you listen actively, you not only make a conscious effort to hear the other person’s words, but, more importantly, you try to understand their whole message.
To do this, learn how to read people’s body language and tone, so that you can identify “hidden” nonverbal messages.
Also, don’t interrupt people, and don’t allow yourself to become distracted by your own thoughts or opinions. Instead, focus completely on what the other person is saying. Nod or say “OK” occasionally to acknowledge that you’re listening.
If you don’t understand something, wait for people to finish what they’re saying before you ask for clarification.
Above all, don’t formulate a response until people have communicated their whole message, and avoid any judgment or criticism until it’s your turn to speak. If you argue or “play devil’s advocate” while you listen, you may discourage them from opening up to you.
When you demonstrate empathy, you recognize other people’s emotions, and you do what you can to understand their perspectives. As such, it really helps you to take active listening to the next level.
To listen empathically, put yourself “in other people’s shoes,” and try to see things from their point of view. Then, summarize what they say, in your own words, to show them that you understand their perspectives.
Also, ask open questions to help people articulate themselves fully, and avoid using leading questions that “put words in people’s mouths.” This gives them the opportunity to add further detail, and to talk about their feelings.
Importantly, don’t fear moments of silence when you listen. Instead, embrace pauses as a way to give people time to finish their point, and to allow them to reflect on what they have said.
Listen in Japanese
The Japanese word for listening is displayed graphically below. Each symbol in the work represents important element of listening
We listen first with our ears.
We maintain an open mind to thinks and understand
We watch with our eyes to sense facial expressions and body language
We feel what is being said with our heart
We focus by giving undivided attention