Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Lost Art of Listening – Part 2

In last week’s blog, I recounted a “discussion” between two friends of mine where it was clear that neither side was really listening to the other. Instead, they were intent on making their own points in the argument regardless of what the other person was saying. It’s not exactly a secret that two monologues do not make a dialogue, yet too often that is exactly the way our discussions are treated.

Listening is something that most of us say that we do well, but few actually do. I’m sure there was a time in the history of man when people really listened to each other, but I’d be hard pressed to tell you when the time was, or why people stopped listening to each other. However, I can tell you some secrets to good listening that the best listeners employ and that make them “great conversationalists.” The secrets themselves are not complex and do not involve a lot of deep psychological understanding to employ. But, while they are simple to discuss, they are much more difficult to implement because they are “uncomfortable” and require a lot of thought. If you practice the techniques below, I promise you that you will be a better listener and that people will interact with you differently on a day to day basis.

Secret Number 1: Clear your mind
Just like Stephen Covey wrote in his groundbreaking book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” you must first seek to understand, and then to be understood.

When listening to another person, clear your mind of all thoughts and focus your attention 100% on the other person. Put aside your own perspective on the issue, or your feelings about the other person and make your mind a blank slate to be filled by the other person’s words.

Secret Number 2: Don’t anticipate the conversation
As the conversation starts, resist the temptation to leap ahead in the discussion to its “obvious conclusion.” Don’t try and guess what they will say next. Instead, let their words come to you in the way that they had intended. When we anticipate where the discussion is going, we often miss key points the other person is trying to make.

Secret Number 3: Don’t multi-task
Study after study has proven that multi-tasking doesn’t work. Although many of us feel that we can do two things at one time, the truth is that when we try and do two things at once, neither task gets the attention it deserves. This is especially true when we are trying to listen to someone else. When you are engaged in a conversation, give the other person your undivided attention. Not only will you hear more, but the other person will appreciate your efforts as well.

Secret Number 4: Pause before responding
Normally, when we are engaged in a conversation we develop our response while the other person is still speaking. Sometimes we key in on a word or phrase that they used, and sometimes we anticipate what they are going to say (see number 2 above). In either event, we begin crafting our response while they are speaking, and in doing so we tune them out, carefully picking the words in our response for maximum impact. Instead, try letting the other person finish their statements and then pause before you respond. In reality it will only take you about 2 seconds to determine the perfect response, because of the quality of your listening. At first, this might seem like the longest 2 seconds of your life, as pauses in conversations tend to be rare these days. But after a little practice, this will become natural for you and for your listeners as well.

At first glance, it might appear that following these guidelines for listening could lengthen your conversations, taking up more of your valuable time. In reality, you will find that you will save time overall because the conversations will be more meaningful, you will reach resolution quicker, and you won’t have repeat conversations because of items left unresolved.

What are some of the rules that you engage in listening? Do you have secrets to share that make you an effective listener? If so, I’d love to hear them.

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• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

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