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August 2010

 

Listening Skills

Listening skills are rated as the number one communication skill needed at all levels of business, from front-line to chief executive.

If you want to increase your performance and your company's bottom line, this is one skill you do not want to miss.  

Key Strategies

1. Give Your Full Attention To the Speaker

As Stephen Covey says, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."  You must listen with the intent to understand rather than with the intent to respond.  That means you must not be talking.

2. Affirm Your Purpose: Empathy

Not sympathy.  Empathy seeks to understand their point of view, not to agree or disagree.  Tell them up front, "I am not agreeing or disagreeing, I really want to understand."  This develops trust and shows that you are not trying to manipulate.

3. Listen With Your Eyes, And Your Ears

Look with your eyes at the body language of the speaker to read their emotional state.  Every study shows that body language accounts for more than half of the message in spoken communication. Only your eyes can tell you what they are feeling, and that is the part that really counts.  Then the words and the vocal variety will tell you the content of their message.

4. Rephrase Content - Reflect Emotion

We all know how to paraphrase, to say back to the speaker what the speaker said, using your own words.  It starts like this: "In other words… "Then add to that message by telling the speaker what emotion you saw in their body language.  It goes like this: "In other words what I hear you saying is… and what it seems you are feeling is… Is that about right?"  And you keep doing it until the speaker responds by telling you that you have gotten the whole message.

5. Use Role Models

Few of us have had any classroom training in listening skills.  All of us have had significant experience with folks who are good listeners.  So the question is: "what are the behaviors they perform in the act of effective listening?" 

Here is a short list of behaviors their behaviors that you can try:

  • Make eye contact
  • Sit still
  • Do not interrupt
  • Nod your head occasionally
  • Ask reflective questions (see above)
  • Do not judge
  • Be patient
  • Remove distractions (TV, phone, pager)
  • Do not offer advice, unless asked
You will not be perfect at first.  It takes thirty days to form a habit, so take the next month and work on one of the behaviors listed that you feel would improve your listening ability.

 



 

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