If you’re like most professionals, you understand how important clear, confident communication is to success. However, strong communication skills don’t just concern the way you express yourself—having strong skills as a listener is just as essential. Just yesterday I had a colleague ask a follow-up question to something I had just addressed. His response was automatic. He said, “I heard but clearly I didn’t listen.” Communication is a two-way street, and effective listening can make or break a conversation or relationship. Listening involves much more than just hearing the words your conversation partner is saying. Take a look at our tips for becoming a stronger listener and strengthening your professional relationships!
Don’t Multitask: Trying to get two things done at the same time may seem like an effective use of your time, but multitasking in conversation is never a good idea. Whether it’s obvious, like checking your phone, or internal, like thinking about other tasks or what you’re going to say next, the person you’re talking to is likely to sense that you’re not fully invested in the conversation. You’re also much more likely to miss important pieces of information if you’re not fully focused on what the other person is saying.
Listen with your Whole Body: Non-verbal communication and body language say a lot about how invested you are in an interaction. Face the other person with your whole body, and occasionally acknowledge their speech with gestures like nodding. Try to maintain eye contact rather than constantly glancing around the room. Finally, avoid postures that can make you seem closed off, like crossing your arms—you’ll seem hostile or unreceptive to the speaker’s message.
Never Interrupt: We all know that interrupting is rude, but people tend to be so eager to give input or ask a question that they often cut people off or try to finish their sentences for them without even realizing it. 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.
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