Do You Have Good Listening Skills?

Marge came home from a tough day at the office. “Honey”, she called out to her husband Mark, “boy today was a bear. First, all of our 10,000-piece marketing brochure, due to be finished last week, showed up today with four typos. The VP was furious! He wants me to fly to Duluth next Monday to find a new company.

Do we have plans next Monday?” Marge asked as she turned to Mark and saw he was transfixed on the football game.

“You’re not even listening to me, are you?”

“Huh, what was that dear…sorry it’s fourth down and a yard”? Mark said.

“OH, JUST FORGET IT…YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME”! Marge screamed and tearfully ran into the bedroom.

Unfortunately, not a wonderful scene. Communication is so important in our daily lives why do we “mis-communicate” so many times only to end up mis-understood, having said something we didn’t mean, or worse, hurt someone we care about? If communication is key to our relationships, why is this art form not taught in school?

People want to be heard and understood
Communication is, simply, made up of alternating transmissions and receptions. Often our ability to listen and observe (reception) is secondary to our intense need to express our thoughts (transmission). If we think only of our really important thing to say we will stop listening to others. Yet, if we want to improve our communication skills, it requires a “re-order”; place more intensity on reception than transmission. For many of us, that’s hard to do. No matter what our role is all of us could use better listening skills.

Think for a moment – we communicate every waking moment of every day. We communicate with ourselves, our spouses, our significant others, our children and in our business partners. Our success in life is determined, in a large part, by how well we interact with others. The ability to effectively relate, understand, communicate, influence and motivate others is a crucial step in creating successful relationships with customers, colleagues, managers, family and friends.

Today, many of us may not be aware of our communication shortcomings; what we say and how we say it. Or we just fail to connect because we neglected to listen.  Has this happened to you? May we reflect here to uncover if there was something you could have done differently or better.

Here are some listening skills to consider. To start, think of your communication goal. What? Goals to communicate? That’s right! Do you want to exchange ideas? Do you want to learn another perspective on a given topic? Whatever your goal, do you care about how others feel after the exchange? That’s a “two-fer”: exchanging ideas AND leaving people feeling “Ok”(rather than “Not-OK”). That’s what great communicators do.

How do we do to make others feel “Un-OK”? By unintentionally talking-over or interrupting. In business, using unfamiliar industry jargon. Or we just don’t give others our time and undivided attention while they express themselves. If you use any of the above you may be leaving others in a “Not OK” mode?

Let’s check ourselves…Do we practice the following?

  • Do You validate the other person: when someone asks for help to talk through a problem or concern, did we take time to sit and listen thoroughly and intently? (This means not answering the phone or responding to Facebook messages!) By giving our time with undivided and uninterrupted attention to that person creates a sense of validation. Conversely, interrupting or clearly showing signs of diverted interest negates validation and adds to the conflicting feelings of not being heard. How do they feel when we cut someone off or interrupt? Are they OK or UN-OK?
  • Do you engage in active listening: this concept has been around for years and, surprisingly, most people just don’t practice it. It is one of the simplest forms of listening and is extremely useful. It is the willingness to listen, understand the speaker’s concepts and paraphrase, in your own words, back and then ask for validation. Something like this: “John, let me see if I understood you correctly, you said…….” Once John confirms, you have validated and heard John. Both are important steps in listening and connecting.

When we speak, there are three elements of expression to be aware of verbal, tonality and body language (also known as the three V’s: visual, verbal and vocal). Surprisingly, tonality and body language make up 93% of how we express our thoughts. Interestingly, how we say our views is more important than the content we own. Considering and employing these concept leads to effective communication.

But how about you?   

How do you communicate? 

Do you have the tendency to talk more than listen? 

Do you pay attention to the three V’s?