Listening is a key skill both in your business and personal lives.
In any conversation, what do we tend to do most (when we’re not talking that is)? Be honest. Correct. We’re waiting to say what we’re planning to say next, or thinking about it. We’re not really paying attention. (Ummmmm. Could this be the reason so many business meetings – especially conference calls – are so often frustrating and unproductive.)
Here are some specific techniques that will allow you to practice listening:
- Notice when you are distracted by your internal dialogue. This is the voice inside your head that everyone has and no one ever talks about. It is easily sidetracked into thinking about something other than what’s being said. The way to control is not to suppress it but just to notice when you are only listening to your thoughts. Oddly enough this actually causes your inner voice to get quieter and helps you to become “present” in the room once again. Remaining present with people the majority of the time is what distinguishes charismatic individuals from those who are not.
- Summarise what the speaker is saying. When I run a summarising exercise during either our Personal Impact or Global Effective Communications courses, participants are amazed by the results they get from concentrating on and summarising what the speaker is saying.I ask them to sit opposite one another. One talks; it can be about any subject: holiday, favourite food or family. The other listens, summarises and then asks an interesting question. The summary is a condensed version of what was said with nothing added to the crux of it, and nothing taken away. It’s a brilliantly powerful technique because it demonstrates to the speaker that you have heard and understood exactly what he or she has said. It acknowledges their contribution and it also allows you to check if there is anything else they want to say. Try it with your partner. They‘ll love you for it.
- Finally, asking questions is a great way to get more information, knowledge and feelings from people. People tend not to listen until they have been listened to. Therefore in meetings, presentations and 1:1s, it’s a really good idea to use questions to get people’s contributions. That way you’ll truly get to learn what they’re truly trying to say.
This article gives some great ideas on natural questions to use. Find some easy questions that you can use to elicit more responses from those you’re talking to. You’ll find they appreciate it.