We spend so much time honing our communications skills — how to have critical conversations, how to negotiate, how to stay calm during tough discussions, etc. But we never bring up THE most important part of communication — LISTENING to the other person.
Communication is a two-way street. I say something and then it's my turn to shut-up and LISTEN to the other person's response. Unfortunately, when that happens, we are usually NOT listening and thinking up a quick response. We are not truly looking them in the eye and absorbing everything they are communicating to us. So today, here are some simple listening strategies you can put into action immediately:
It's not just understanding their words.
You need to decipher how the speaker feels about what they are communicating. Are they irritated, happy, surprised, worried, sad, or angry? Your first impression of their mental state will allow you to set up your response back to them in a calm, cool, and informed manner.
Focus fully on the speaker — their body language and other non-verbal cues will tell you volumes of information while you speak and listen back and forth.
Avoid interrupting or trying to redirect the conversation to your concerns. In fact — shut-up until the other person runs out of gas and stops talking.
Avoid seeming judgmental. You don't have to agree with them — fully listen and totally understand their position before you respond.
Use follow-up questions.
Show you care — ask follow up questions to their statements and let them respond.
Respond with: "So what your saying . . . " or "What I'm hearing . . ." or "I think I understand what you're pointing out . . .". Get them to nod YES before you move on.
Push them to keep talking.
Use phrases like: "Tell me more . . ." or "Keep going . . ." — they allow the speaker to feel what they are saying is valuable and that you really care.
You need to be an effective listener.
Make the speaker feel heard and understood while creating an environment where everyone feels safe to express their ideas.
When you show an open and encompassing demeanor while their speaking, they immediately feel they are important to you and you truly care about what they have to say.
They just want to be heard and understood. That's all.