Friday, June 17, 2011


If speaking is silver, then listening is gold.                   - Turkish Proverb

Business means building relationships and I never came across a better tool for this than giving a patient ear to your ally. The ability to listen actively can improve personal relationships through reducing conflicts, strengthen cooperation; make you more productive, get growth in career and fosters understanding. Success depends on listening.

Give an ear, harvest gold of wisdom.
Listening is a communication technique that requires the listener to understand, interpret and evaluate what he hears. When interacting, people often are not listening attentively. They may be distracted by mind chattering or thinking about what they are going to say next (the latter case is particularly true in conflict situations or disagreements). Active listening is a structured way of comprehending, retaining and responding to others. Suspending one's own frame of reference, suspending judgment and avoiding other irrelevant internal mental activities are important to fully attend the speaker.

Active listening ensures that you not only hear but listen to the speaker and he knows that you are listening what is being said. Here are four golden points of active listening.

Point #1: Pay attention
Prepare with a positive, engaged attitude, give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message. Recognize that non-verbal communication also speaks loudly.
§ Stop all non-relevant activities beforehand  and focus your attention on the subject
§ Put aside distracting thoughts and things like daydreaming and cell-phone etc.
§ Follow and understand the speaker as if you were walking in his shoes.
§ Avoid being distracted by environmental factors.
§ Listen to the speaker's body language.

Point #2: Show that you are listening
Use body language and gestures to convey your attention.
§ Nod occasionally, smile appropriately, make eye contact, lean forward and use other facial expressions.
§ Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, ok, hmm etc.
§ Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting.

Point #3: Defer judgment
Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments and beliefs can distort what we hear.
§ Set aside your prejudices, opinions and try to learn what the speaker has to say, not the other way around.
§ Don't agree or disagree rather encourage the train of thoughts from speaker.
§ Allow the speaker to make his point.

Point #4: Respond appropriately
As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said and make the speaker believe that he is successful in communicating the message across. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.
Interrupting and making counter argument is a waste of time; it frustrates the speaker, at the same time limits your learning.
§ Ask relevant questions but let the speaker finish first. You can't really listen if you are busy thinking about what you want say next.
§ While asking questions, quickly express appreciation and briefly summarize a preliminary point before you ask.
§ Give feedback. You can do it during the entire talk by using small verbal and non-verbal signals.
§ Be candid, open and honest in your response and assert your opinions respectfully.
§ Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing periodically.

It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be an active listener. But it is possible and you can do it. Be deliberate with your listening and remind yourself frequently that your goal is to truly listen what the other person is saying. Set aside all other thoughts and behaviors and concentrate on the message. Ask questions, reflect, and paraphrase to ensure you understand the message.

Remember what Carl Rogers said ‘One's inability to communicate is a result of his failure to listen effectively.’ Start using active listening today to become a better communicator, improve your workplace productivity, grow your career and develop better relationships.

 Stay tuned to the blog for tips on other communication skills on Fridays to follow.

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