There’s More to Listening Than Hearing 1

“In the industrial age, the CEO sat on the top of the hierarchy and didn’t have to listen to anybody … In the information age; you have to listen to the ideas of people regardless of where they are in the organization.” – John Sculley. Active Listening? What images conjure up in your mind’s eye when you hear that? Who do you think is the most important person in the conversation – the sender or the receiver? Active listening (receiving) is as important to communication as effective speaking (sending). If the receiver doesn’t receive the message the way it was intended then whatever was said means absolutely squat.

Active listening is described as a process in which the listener interacts with the speaker. Effective communication takes two. To really listen to what is being said requires mental and verbal paraphrasing and attention to non-verbal cues like tones, gestures, and facial expressions. (We communicate 93% of the time non-verbally – 38% by the tone of our voice and 55% by body language alone.) The next time you have an opportunity to listen try being actively involved in the exchange by developing/demonstrating these five skills to become a more active listener.

1. Restating and Summarizing: You should be able to restate what the speaker said and or summarize the discussion. The speaker should hear their own words being played back to them. (So what you are saying is …)

2. Paraphrasing: You are paraphrasing what the speaker said by repeating it as accurately as you can – using your own words. If you met someone in the hallway after the discussion could you tell that person what the discussion was about?

3. Non-Words: Listeners can show the speaker that they are listening by verbally and non-verbally acknowledging the speaker. (The Fraser Crane – Hello – I’m listening) Use non-words like “ah-ha – yeah – hmmmmmm – oh. Smile, nod and make eye contact.

4. Supporting Statements: Another way to verbally acknowledge a speaker is to use supporting statements. Examples include “Go on; tell me more, and then what happened?, OMG you’re kidding?

5. Non-Verbal Messages: Remember – We communicate 55% of the time non-verbally. Your body language is speaking volumes and you haven’t said a word. Your non verbal messages must be the same as your verbal messages so that the speaker feels that you are being sincere. People believe the non-verbal messages you send to be more accurate. Your verbal responses should include non-verbal responses such as: body angle and stance, facial expressions, arms, hands, legs and feet. Your body language should appear open and receptive. Put your hands down at your sides not across your chest. Rolling your eyes, yawning, looking around the room, looking down at your watch or tapping on the floor with your toe should be avoided at all costs.

We aren’t born good listeners but we can learn how. Try adding these five skills to your active listening toolbox. You’ll find out everything you need to know about the people you work with and interact with by actively listening. 🙂 – Cheers,

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