Listening is defined by the International Listening Association as: “The process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages.” However, in our enthusiasm to get our point across, we often forget communication is completely ineffective if we don’t listen to the other person – or if the other person isn’t listening to us! We either lose or confuse the meaning.
When it comes to engaging in positive communication, listening skills are of paramount importance and developing these skills is an important part of my work in helping people to build interpersonal skills and influence.
Active listening behaviours are critical when receiving feedback or another person’s reasoning and views. Only then can we establish what their needs are and can win their co-operation by showing how we propose to meet their needs.
Here are top ten tips to develop your listening skills:
- Demonstrate appropriate listening behaviour – try not to interrupt or interrogate.
- Listen for underlying meaning and emotions by watching body language, facial expressions, voice and eye-contact. Words only account for 7% of the overall message; tone of voice accounts for 38% and body language, 55%.
- Ask non-threatening questions and don’t blame, either directly or indirectly.
- Ask about and acknowledge feelings.
- Express sympathy and offer support - but don’t offer advice or solutions if they’re not asked for.
- Show your interest – ‘tell me more about…’
- Paraphrase – ‘you mean that…?’
- Reflect – ‘you sound upset/frustrated/excited etc.’ Try not to make light of the situation, or say ‘I know just how you feel’ – you don’t!
- Clarity – ‘are you saying that…?’