More than 35 business studies place listening skills as one of the top five skills essential for business success.
The ability to listen is key to developing and maintaining relationships, making decisions and solving problems.
Many people brush it off because it seems like common sense, but effective listening is not as easy as it appears.
Listening is the glue that holds a conversation together. Speaking is only a small part of the communication process. Maybe, we have one tongue and two ears so that we can listen twice as much as we talk.
The biggest concern in communication is the delusion that mutual understanding has taken place. Understanding is the ultimate goal. To listen effectively requires participation, patience, action and effort. Only then do we increase the likelihood that we understand what the other person is saying.
We have a lot on our minds with many distractions. It's not surprising that we occasionally tune out our co-workers or employees. Unfortunately, our lack of attention is habit-forming and sends the message that we don't care. It is also the cause of many misunderstandings, conflicts, missed deadlines, wrong orders and much more.
How can we focus on the other person and not get distracted by everything that competes for our attention?
Here are some strategies that might help:
* Express your interest: One of the best listening techniques is to sincerely be interested in what your counterpart has to say. Maintain eye contact. Do not yawn, look around aimlessly, or otherwise show that you are uninterested. The more interest you show your counterpart, the more interesting he or she becomes.
* Maintain your focus: People speak at the rate of approximately 150 words per minute. They think at approximately 500 words per minute. This leaves a gap for your mind to wander. Make a point of keeping your mind focused and quickly rein it back in when necessary.
* Ask questions: If something is unclear or doesn't make sense, ask questions to clarify. Reflective listening, summarizing what the speaker has said and repeating it back as a question, is an effective way of ensuring understanding and demonstrating your interest.
* Avoid interruptions: Constantly interrupting the speaker or allowing others to do so is not OK. He or she should be the most important thing in your life at that moment. Only if your building is on fire is it OK to interrupt the speaker.
* Listen with more than your ears: According to the experts, 90 percent of communication in a typical conversation is nonverbal. Because this is the case, you must use all your senses when you listen -- not just your ears.
* Take notes: Remembering all the details of an important conversation after it took place can be quite difficult. Taking notes can be a terrific aid to listening and remembering what was said. Plus, it shows the speaker how committed you are to fully understand him or her.
By practicing these listening strategies, you can get the right message, and your people will appreciate your full attention. Effective listening skills are crucial in creating adaptable, quick-response cultures capable of facing today's business challenges.
Brad Larsen is a life coach and corporate consultant from Northern Utah. He can be reached at email@example.com