As a communication coach, I work with clients all the time who want to improve their speaking skills. However, all too often, people neglect the other side of the communication coin: being an effective listener. With the amount of stress most professionals are under and the constant burden of multitasking, people often find that they have trouble being fully present in a conversation and truly listening to the speaker. Communication is a two-way street. It doesn’t matter how phenomenal you are at speaking—if your listening skills are lacking, your communication will still suffer. Take a look at my three strategies below to make sure your listening skills don’t suffer:
Listen Actively- Don’t just passively absorb what the other person is saying. If it’s appropriate within the situation, actively participate in the conversation by asking questions and making comments. If you find a point especially interesting, ask the speaker to elaborate. If something is unclear, ask for clarification. Even small ways of interacting, like nodding your head, or occasionally adding interjections like “Right,” or “Uh-huh” can go a long way towards letting your partner know you’re invested in the conversation and keeping you focused.
Never Interrupt- We’re all taught when we’re children that interrupting someone else while they’re trying to talk is rude. But many of us tend to forget this golden rule as adults, and interrupt others without even realizing it. People tend to be so eager to give input or ask a question that they cut off their speaker or try to finish their sentences for them. Like I said above, questions and comments are an essential part of active listening, but if you don’t wait for the speaker to finish first, you risk missing important information and appearing rude and unprofessional.
Give Multitasking a Break. Because we’re all so busy, it only seems natural that we try to get two things done at the same time. This can be obvious, like checking your e-mail as you’re talking to someone, or can be subtle and internal, like thinking about other problems or tasks while in a conversation. You may think you can manage listening and doing something else, but you’re likely missing subtle, important points of information. In addition, the person speaking to you will feel like you don’t value what they have to say: no one wants to play second fiddle to your smart phone.
Want to learn more? Click on the following link to hear me talk about some additional tips and strategies for becoming a great listener and better communication partner: http://www.corporatespeechsolutions.com/wp-content/uploads/Be-a-good-listener.mp3
If you have questions or are interested in improving your communication skills, give me a call at 212-308-7725 or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you might have!
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