If You Think They’re Listening – Think Again

How often have you been in a conversation with someone and their body language is telling you that they aren’t interested in you – or what you have to say – simply by the non-verbal messages they are sending you? (Scooping the room to see if there is someone more interesting to talk too, looking down at their watch, retrieving messages on their smart phone or being easily distracted by people walking by) If it looks like they aren’t interested – trust me – they aren’t interested.  Think about that the next time you are having an important conversation with someone. If you want others to be interested in you – you must demonstrate that you are interested in them. And to do that you have to learn how to “Actively” listen.

Dr. Ralph Nichols – a communication’s expert – suggests that we communicate 40% of the time by listening.  A recent survey revealed that individuals listen about 25% of the time; most people recall only 50% of what they hear, and 70% of all misunderstandings happen because people do not listen to each other. (Two monologues do not make a dialogue) According to Dr. Nichols grade school aged children listen to their teacher just 25% of the time. By the time young people graduate from high school they are listening to the teacher just 17% of the time. And by the time they graduate college they are listening to the professor just 12% of the time. How much do you think they are listening by the time they go out into the workforce or meet up with you at a networking event?

We are not born good listeners – but we can learn how. The next time you have an opportunity to listen to someone try to be actively involved in the conversation by developing/demonstrating these five active listening skills:

1. – Try restating and summarizing what the speaker said by saying it back to them. (So what you are saying is …..)

2. – Paraphrase what the speaker said by repeating it as accurately as you can using your own words. It goes beyond restating and summarizing because you are giving the speaker your interpretation of what you heard them say.

3. – Use non-words and simple gestures to show the speaker that you are listening.  Nod your head, smile and use non-words like ah …, yeah, hmmmm, oh …. work great.

4 – Supporting statements like – “Go on, tell me more” or “then what happened? and “I see what you mean” are another way to verbally acknowledge the other person.

5 – Always keep in mind that non-verbal messages must be congruent with your verbal messages. Most adults believe the non-verbal as being more accurate. You communicate 38% of the time by the tone of your voice and an astounding 55% of the time by body language alone.  (Rolling your eyes, looking down at your watch, yawning or tapping the floor with your toe is telling the other person what you really think.

Active listening is as important to communication as effective speaking. To really listen requires mental focus, verbal paraphrasing and attention to non-verbal cues like tones, gestures, and facial expressions. The more that you can dial into the other person’s am radio station – MMFIAM (Make Me Feel Important And More) – the more likely they’ll “tune” into you. – Cheers, 🙂