Becoming an Effective Listener

by Kevin Sinclair -

One of the keys to success is effective communication and people notice when you are good at it.

If you are like a lot of people, you may think that better communication means you need to work on conversational and persuasive speech skills, when in fact how well you listen is much more important.

You can have the best conversational skills on the planet but if you do not know how to listen, it is useless. No matter how clear your points they still will not be understood or even heard, without listening skills.

Keep in mind that half of your communication effort is listening which means it is imperative you take the time to develop this skill as well.

Techniques to Build your Listening Skills:
1. Resist the urge to talk! 
Especially when you are in the middle of a heated discussion, you begin to fast forward to what you will say next. 
There is a temptation to start speaking even before the other individual is done. It may take extra effort, but you should do your best to keep your mouth closed while they are talking. 
Instead of worrying about what you will say and how you will say it, focus on the other person. What they are saying and their body language are important. 
2. Stay Interested. 
While you are listening, your nonverbal communication is important. 
If you appear uncaring or disinterested, the other people will pick up on that fact, which will severely limit the chances of a resolution. They will be less likely to open up and share their thoughts or concerns. 
Connect with the other person. Nod your head, smile and make eye contact during the exchange. This lets them know that you are hearing what they have to say. 
3. Mirror the conversation. 
There is one simple technique that will ensure proper communication and that is to repeat back what you have heard. 
Use an affirming tone to repeat key points or phrases. It is also good to give them a synopsis of what you just heard in your own words, this prevents mis-communications. 
At this point you need to keep your opinions to yourself. When repeating their ideas and conversation you want to communicate that you have understood, not make judgments or voice opinions. 
4. Ask Questions. 
Asking questions is a great idea as well, you can gain further understanding on the conversation with a few well-placed inquiries. 
Again, the important thing is that you fully comprehend what your partner is trying to say. 
5. Exercise patience. 
If you are dealing with someone who is shy or lacks communication skills you will want to exercise patience. 
Pushing too hard may scare off your partner and bring the conversation to a premature conclusion. 
6. Become a follower. 
Just because you are practicing, listening does not mean that is your only job. Nothing says you cannot join in the conversation; you just do not want to overpower it. 
When they ask for your input, give it but be sure they have finished their points first.
Practice makes perfect when it comes to communicating well. When you have successfully completed a conflict resolution, think about what you remember from the conversation. Write it down if need be. Did the other individual get to do a great deal of the talking?

All it takes is fighting the urge to dominate the situation; this will allow you to actually hear what others have to say.

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