Clear and targeted communication is vital for the continued growth and success of any company. Failure to understand what is being said — miscommunication — can lead to problems not only with your employees but also with your customers. Active listening is intrinsic to successful communication. Before you can get your message across, you first have to know what you want to say; and to do this, you have to know how to listen.
To listen actively, you first have to give the person talking to you your complete and undivided attention. For a generation of multi-taskers, this may seem highly ineffectual, but nothing could be further from the truth. Only when you are free from distractions can you really hear – and understand – what another person is saying. When your mind is divided because you have a tablet, phone or some other digital device in hand, you may hear the words but not grasp the meaning behind them. Our seminar facilitators believe that to listen attentively, you first need to focus.
When another person is talking to you, are you already formulating a response to what he or she is saying? Or are you just waiting for the first intake of breath so you can weigh in with your opinion about the subject matter? Or worse, do you interrupt when another person is talking because you can’t wait to speak your mind? Good listeners don’t do any of these things. Instead, they let other people finish their thoughts and only reply or form an opinion afterwards. Active listening means hearing what another person is telling you, rather than using your encounter with him or her as an opportunity to voice your opinion or extoll your virtues and successes.
Listen with Your Eyes
According to our corporate facilitation experts, body language is a powerful means of communication, though oftentimes people are not aware of the message they are sending with their bodies. The way people stand when they are talking to you, where they put their hands or whether they lean in or stand back when they talk – all these are suggestive of how they truly feel no matter what they may actually be saying with their words. Paying attention to body language allows you to listen to what is not being said, and this can sometimes be more significant than the words that are spoken.
When the other person stops talking, paraphrase what he or she just said and repeat it to them to make sure you heard them correctly (and that you have listened attentively). This validates the other person and makes him or her more likely to listen attentively to you in return.
If you don’t have any questions, you don’t have to make one up just for the sake of asking. But if you do want a point clarified or elucidated upon, by all means let the person know. A relevant question means you were listening and paying attention. The other person will appreciate that and reciprocate in kind.
Active listening is just one of the useful skills that you will learn in many of our facilitation training courses. If you need assistance with meeting, conference or corporate facilitation, contact us. Our professional facilitators are experienced and highly skilled in all areas of facilitation and training.