ACTIVE LISTENING: The most frequent cause of failure in therapeutic counseling interviews is the interviewer’s tendency to talk too much. Numerous studies have shown that in counseling interviews the average manager will talk as much as 85 percent of the time. For a counseling interview to serve its purpose of drawing out responses from the employee, the interviewer must be an effective listener, not a talker. The manager must know how to ask questions which force the employee to speak about his or her unsatisfactory performance. After asking the question, the interviewer should remain silent, thus compelling the employee to speak.
NEVER BE AFRAID OF SILENCE: Most people talk too much because they feel uncomfortable when silence prevails. For example, a manager may ask an employee to suggest how his or her job performance could be improved. If the employee was unprepared for such a question, it may take a few moments to prepare a cogent answer. These few moments may seem like hours, compelling the manager to say something else or to elaborate on the original question. If the manager succumbs to this compulsion, the employee’s chain of thought will be interrupted, and he or she will be encouraged to lapse back into a passive mental frame. It’s far easier for the employee to listen to the boss talk than it is to try to construct a meaningful answer to a pointed question.
BE AN ENCORAGING EMPLOYER: This encouragement can be in the form of visual feedback (having a facial expression of interest, keeping eyes upon the speaker’s face, or nodding) as well as oral comments. The employee will be inclined to tell all he or she knows if the interviewer, neither agreeing nor disagreeing, retains a noncommittal facial expression and tone of voice. By rewording the employee’s input, the manager may be able to process the information related more clearly as well as “compel” the employee to elaborate on those parts which they feel that the manager didn’t clearly understand.
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CEO, A. E. Schwartz & Associates, Boston, MA. , a comprehensive organization which offers over 40 skills based management training programs. Mr. Schwartz conducts over 150 programs annually for clients in industry, research, technology, government, Fortune 100/500 companies, and nonprofit organizations worldwide. He is often found at conferences as a key note presenter and/or facilitator. His style is fast-paced, participatory, practical, and humorous. He has authored over 65 books and products, and taught/lectured at over a dozen colleges and universities throughout the United States.