There are benefits to a good education but there are some skills that are learned outside the classroom. Experience is what we commonly refer to as learning on the job; that innate ability to know and understand the business at hand. Networking, over coming objections, preparing and organizing your presentation, “thinking on your feet” are all valid but how often do we take into consideration LISTENING. Sharpening listening skills is relatively easy to begin practicing. Remember, listening is not a passive process.
Be ready to hear and consider all sides of an issue in other words listen with an open mind. We may not agree with what is being said, but we must avoid defensiveness. Consider the interaction an opportunity to understand new viewpoints and ideas. Our willingness to listen to a different perspective will sometimes yield surprising new insights.
Begin with listening to the entire message and allow each conversation to run its course then and only then can you advance your thoughts, and respond with understanding. There is a proper time to respond and recognizing those signals will create an even flow with the conversation. Restrain the urge to interrupt it will devalue their message, and it is often perceived as rude and offensive. If ever you do interrupt it is good to be apologetic and acknowledge that you are interrupting; that awareness goes a long way towards mending your deliberate violation of the other person’s right to speak. We can only do one thing effectively at a time: listen or respond.
The best gauge to know whether you are listening is actively looking for the central idea of what is said. Our job would be easy listening to a well-communicated idea, not all of us are effective communicators. Regardless of the speaker’s ability, if you can share a summary of what you heard you are confirming your understanding of the topic. Asking questions shows your understanding of a topic. When we ask questions, we are showing that we are listening and help the speaker to communicate effectively with us. The ability to ask good questions also helps us to learn. I would caution you to use discretion and ask genuine questions. Questioning everything may back fire and perceived as a way to make you seem smart.
Finally the most important action is to show the speaker you are listening. Visible body language and audibly demonstrating that we are listening is just as important as the listening itself. A simple nod of the head, maintaining eye contact, taking notes when appropriate and verbal affirmation such as asking question assures the speaker we are paying attention. Practicing listening will open doors and increase your bottom line.
About the Author: Thomas Miner is the presidenr of Bartleby Press, an Austin printing service