Active Listening and Good Communication

Active Listening and Good Communication

Building relationships at work and at home depends upon good communication. This includes the ability to really “hear” what the other person Active Listening and good communicationis trying to say. if you practice the skill of active listening, you will be able to communicate better.

In coaching we spend a lot of time thinking about active listening – for us it is a core skill. Active listening is hearing with engagement. In active listening you work to not just to hear the words, but to understand exactly what the other person is trying to say.

Active listening helps the other person to feel appreciated and respected. It helps them to have trust.

Active listening is a skill that requires practice but here are some tips to help you on your way.

  1. Position – be somewhere where you can see and be seen by your hearer for important messages. Talking one to one, or in small groups, sit up straight or lean forward slightly to show your attentiveness through body language.
  2. Maintain comfortable eye contact. Again one to one and in a small group, you need to judge the night degree of eye contact. Give good warm “face”,  and don’t stare them down or threaten with your glare. Remember, acceptable eye contact changes with culture. In some cultures it is very rude indeed to look straight into someone’s eyes.
  3. Minimize external distractions. Reduce external noise. Turn off the TV in the corner of the room. Ask people to stop what else they are doing and switch off your mobile phone. If someone comes to talk to you in your office at work, it is better to ask them to wait outside than to go on writing whilst they are in the room.  Writing on looks arrogant and it sends a clear message about what you think of their status relative to yours.
  4. Respond appropriately – when someone is talking to you show that you understand. You can murmur (“uh-huh” and “um-hmm”) and nod. Raise your eyebrows. Say words such as “Really” and “Interesting,” as well as more direct prompts: “What did you do then?” and “What did she say?” All these things show that you are interested and encourage the other person to keep talking.
  5. Focus solely on what the speaker is saying. If you concentrate properly on what someone is saying to you, your response will usually come naturally. If there is a silence – it usually means something. Silences often follow important statements, they give us breathing and thinking time. Don’t spend thinking time on what to say, spend it on reflection about what has been said. Then you will find the conversation usually flows.
  6. Be aware of what is happening inside you. You may find your own thoughts intruding as you try to listen. This can happen particularly if what is being said touches your own emotions. But let your thoughts go and keep refocusing back on the speaker, Time afterwards to reflect on what this meant for you.
  7. Suspend judgement. Wait until the speaker has finished before forming your opinion, even if they are complaining. In fact, it is even more important,if you think you are likely to disagree with what they are saying . Take the time to take in all that they have said before you give an opinion.
  8. Don’t jump to tell them what you did last time. People don’t want to be thought of as just another number, case or employee. Treat each person you speak to as an individual meriting individual consideration. There will be a time to use past examples but judge their use with care – packaged solutions do not blend well with feelings.
  9. Be engaged Ask questions for clarification. Once again, wait until the speaker has finished. Don’t interrupt their train of thought. After you ask questions, paraphrase their point to make sure you didn’t misunderstand. You could start with: “So you’re saying…” This shows that you are really listening.

You gotta practice

Practice your active listening skill, particularly handling silence. Learn to use it to better understand what is being said to you. As your listening skills develop, so will your speaking skills and your ability to hold a conversation. You will be surprised how active listening draws people to you. People warm to those who take the trouble to really listen to them.

Wendy Smith, Career, life and Business Coach
Wendy Smith, Principal Coach, WiseWolf Life and Career Coaching

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link

         

Being a good leader; communication and active listening

Every piece of advice you read about how to be a good leader talks about the need for good communication – an able leader is an able communicator! Yes, quite right. But communication is a two-way process. For any leader the ability to listen is right up there with the ability to deliver the message. And listening is more the just hearing a sound and knowing what the words usually mean.

In coaching we spend a lot of time thinking about active listening – for us it is a core skill. Active listening is hearing with engagement. In active listening you work to not just to hear the words, but to understand exactly what the other person is trying to say.

For coaches active listening is important not only because we need to understand but also because when we listen fully, the client feels appreciated and respected – it helps them to have trust.

Surely as a leader you want, just as much as coach, to be trusted and in due course to inspire your organization.

Active listening is a skill and it requires practice but here are some tips to help you on your way.

  1. Position Be somewhere where you can see and be seen by your hearer for important messages. Talking one to one or in small groups, sit up straight or lean forward slightly to show your attentiveness through body language.
  2. Maintain comfortable eye contact. Again one to one and in small group you need to judge the night degree of eye contact. Give good warm “face”,  and don’t stare them down or threaten with your glare. Remember, acceptable eye contact changes with culture. In some cultures it is very rude indeed to look straight into someone’s eyes.
  3. Minimize external distractions. Reduce external noise. Turn off the TV in the corner of the room. Ask people to stop what else they are doing and switch off your mobile phone. If someone comes to talk to you in your office, it is better to ask them to wait outside than to go on writing whilst they are in the room.  Writing on looks arrogant and it sends a clear message about what you think of their status relative to yours.
  4. Respond appropriately When someone is talking to you show that you understand. You can murmur (“uh-huh” and “um-hmm”) and nod. Raise your eyebrows. Say words such as “Really” and “Interesting,” as well as more direct prompts: “What did you do then?” and “What did she say?”. All these things show that you are interested and encourage the other person to keep talking.
  5. Focus solely on what the speaker is saying. If you concentrate properly on what someone is saying to you, your response will usually come naturally. If there is a silence – it usually means something. Silences often follow important statements, they give us breathing and thinking time. Don’t spend thinking time on what to say, spend it on reflection about what has been said, then you will find the conversation usually flows.
  6. Be aware of what is happening inside you. You may find your own thoughts intruding as you try to listen. This can happen particularly if what is being said touches your own emotions. But let your thoughts go for not and keep refocusing back on the speaker, Time afterwards to reflect on what this meant for you.
  7. Suspend judgement Wait until the speaker has finished before forming your opinion, even if they are complaining. In fact, it is even more important,if you think you are likely to disagree with what they are saying . Take the time to take in all that they have said before you give an opinion.
  8. Don’t jump to tell them what you did last time. People don’t want to be thought of as just another number, case or employee. Treat each person you speak to as an individual meriting individual consideration. There will be a time to use past examples but judge their use with care – packaged solutions do not blend well with feelings.
  9. Be engaged Ask questions for clarification, once again, wait until the speaker has finished. Don’t interrupt their train of thought. After you ask questions, paraphrase their point to make sure you didn’t misunderstand. You could start with: So you’re saying…” This shows that you are really listening.
  10. Practice your active listening skills, particularly handling silence. Learn to use it to better understand what is being said to you. As your listening skills develop, so will your speaking skills and your ability to hold a conversation. You will be surprised how active listening draws people to you. People warm to those who take the trouble to really listen to them.

 

Wendy Mason is a Life and Career Coach.  She helps people have the confidence they need to be successful at work and to change career while maintaining a good work/life balance. You can email her at wendymason@wisewolfcoaching.com

Registered with Life Coach Directory

Other  articles by Wendy

BE A GREAT BOSS IN A RECESSION – 5 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR LISTENING SKILLS

Being a good boss is always the way to get the best out of your team.  This becomes more, not less, important during a recession when every resource available to you counts.  Even if you have to let people go, there is a right and wrong way to do it.  We have suggested 10 ways in which you can be a great boss. Listening is an important part of recognizing people and their contribution and making them feel part of your team.

To enhance your listening skills, you need to make sure the other person knows that you are listening to what he or she is saying.  lf if you’ve ever been engaged in a conversation when you wondered if the other person was listening to what you were saying – you will know how important this is. You begin to wonder if your message is getting across, or if it’s even worthwhile continuing the conversation.  It make you feel the other person doesn’t put much value on you and what you have to say.

You can acknowledge what someone is saying just with  a nod of the head or a simple “uh huh.  You aren’t necessarily agreeing with the person, you are simply indicating that you are listening. Using body language and other signs to acknowledge you are listening also reminds you to pay attention.  They help you to concentrate on what they are telling you and help you understand the real message.   Try to respond in a way that encourages the other person to continue speaking, That way you can get the information you need.   An occasional question or comment to recap what has been said communicates that you understand the message, as well as clarifying for you.

Here are five ways to improve your listening skills and to reassure the other person that you are really hearing them!

  1. Concentrate
    Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message.  Look at the speaker directly and concentrate on what they are saying with an open mind.  Don’t let yourself be distracted by anyone or anything else.
  2. Use your body language
    Use gestures to show you are listening.  Nod, smile and use the appropriate facial expressions. Make sure your posture is open and inviting and make small verbal comments – yes, no and even uh huh!
  3. Give feedback.
    Our own prejudices and preconceptions can interfere with what we hear.   So reflect as you listen and then play back to the person what you think they just said – “ It sound like what you saying is”– followed by a short summary .  Or ask a question for clarification – “Is this what you mean..?”  Summarizing back to ensure you understood correctly reassures the person that you really are interested and listening
  4. Hold back on judgment.
    Don’t interrupt, its frustrating as well as discourteous – it wastes your time and theirs,  Let them finish – don’t role out counterarguments until you are absolutely sure they are appropriate.  Let the speaker finish their point first and make sure you understand it properly – concentrate on the speaker, not your self
  5. Treat the person and their message with respect
    Act with respect and understanding. The speaker is giving you a gift  – you are gaining information and perspective.  Be grateful – you may wish to dispute their argument but do it with respect.  Do not attack the speaker.  Be candid but constructive in your response

Above all treat the other person as you would wish to be treated!

Try the approach and then let us know if it worked for you!