Whether for work or play, it is important to be a good communicator. Good communication is vital to customer service, working with suppliers, negotiating contacts, getting a team to cooperate, avoiding misunderstandings, resolving conflicts, and much more. Communication is a two-way conversation that involves both talking and listening.
Most people are willing to take training to talk better so they can become great speakers, effective negotiators, or productive presentation givers. However, talking is only one part of communication. The other part is hearing and understanding the communication, which is often referred to as active listening. So what type of training or preparation does this active listening require? Following are three steps to use during every conversation to assure better listening.
1. Pay attention. The easiest easy to do this is to look directly at the person speaking. Then concentrate and give the speaker full attention by not thinking about other things when they are talking. To aid understanding, watch for cues in their body language. Don't get distracted and resist the temptation to interrupt or argue while they are talking.
2. Acknowledge you are listening. Keep personal posture relaxed and non-judgmental, while using appropriate facial expressions based on their cues. Also nod occasionally or say “uh huh" or “yes" to keep them talking. Don't talk until they stop talking
3. Verify what was heard. Get better understanding by asking questions for clarification or by paraphrasing what was heard and asking if that is correct. Try to be empathetic by reflecting their emotions when summarizing what was heard.
After doing these things, it is time to talk by responding appropriately. While talking, be sure to respectfully share honest beliefs, feelings, or opinions about what was heard. Then be willing to repeat the three steps when the other responds to what they think they heard.
Being a good listener is one step towards becoming a better communicator, which is vital in professional and personal situations. Finding training for talking while communicating is easy, but becoming a better listener will require practice.
Shirley Fine Lee, author of “R. A!R. A! A Meeting Wizard's Approach", has worked as a training and development specialist since 1986, and an independent consultant since 2000. She has extensive experience, helping organizations with their team building, training development, meeting facilitation, presentation delivery, and other communication needs. This work involves developing productivity tools, presenting workshops, and writing. For instance, she has authored numerous training manuals and guides, on a wide variety of topics. Her programs include time management, getting organized, problem solving, and team building. Find out more about her and options she provides on her website.