Active Listening

Communication – Let’s have a little silence.

The topic of communication is without a doubt, one of the most overrated and spoken topics of all time. How can it not? In order to understand failed relationships, counselors analyse communication –or lack thereof –between both parties involved. In order to become better in public speaking, a speaker studies interaction with the audience. In order to handle a newborn baby, parents read up books in the effort to understand infant’s communication signals that they otherwise won’t be able to comprehend. The fact is, people communicate all the time even when they don’t realize it –you reading this article even –and still? You would think that with the amount of communication we do daily we would actually be good at it but apparently that is not quite so the case. For one, to communicate is easy, but communication, in the greater sense of the word, is a complex matter altogether. One minute you find yourself on a roll with everything under the sun to talk about, the next you’re sensing bad vibes from the other person listening. So what gives?

Well, we might have a vague idea.

Once upon a time communication tools were difficult to obtain. People didn’t have mobile phones or the internet readily at their disposal. If they wanted to communicate with someone from a far distance, the medium of communication was such that a baby would’ve been born from the day the letter was sent to the time it reached you. Could you imagine living in a time like that? Fortunately, those days are over and here we are, in the 21st century which ensures communication in a single click of a button. Communicating has gotten so easy in fact that it became a bias of the mind to conceptualize communication as purely proactive –talk, talk, talk. While this makes up to a very extroverted bunch –no pun intended –the worth of silence, however, is depreciated. So there you go.

Most of the time we believe listening is simply hearing the words coming out of the client’s mouth. We think silence thickens the air so it’s best to avoid it. Keep talking, the mind commands. But in truth, it affects the quality of the relationship. Ineffective listening can damage as well as deteriorate the level of trust between you and your clients. Sure, it is a very complex process which requires your conscious effort, intellect as well as emotions, but will it improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence and negotiate? Yes sir.

Therefore, it is important to listen. In order to do that; you need to let the other person know that you are listening to what is being said. Acknowledgement is a start, and it can be something as simple as a nod of the head or a simple “uh huh.” Don’t misunderstand; you aren’t necessarily agreeing with the person, you are simply indicating that you are listening. Using body language and other signs to acknowledge you are listening also reminds you to pay attention and not let your mind wander. In the mean time, respond to the speaker in a way that will both encourage him or her to continue speaking. We don’t mean attacking them with your opinions, but while nodding and “uh huh-ing” implies interest, an occasional question or comment to recap what has been said communicates that you understand the message as well. This helps you to focus on the content of the matter discussed, and not that of the speaker. Our biggest problem, sometimes, is that we tend to pass judgment on the speakers based on his or her credibility, background, reputation and so on and so forth. Therefore, a final skill is to move your mind to concentrate on what the speaker is saying. You cannot fully hear their point of view or process information when you argue mentally or judge what they are saying before they have completed. An open mind is a mind that is receiving and listening to information.

Simply put, the key to being an outstanding communicator is not so much the words of wisdom that come out of your mouth, but how well you listen to the words of wisdom that come out of the mouths of others.

Learn how to listen – actively. The MWS Active Listening title under the Essential Skills in Action learning track. You will attain powerful tips, tools and techniques to make you an even better communicator. MWS Workshops are specifically designed to make learning fun, experiential and effective in an accelerated 4 hour format. Contact Us now to see how you can benefit.

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