“Conversation: a vocal competition in which the one who is catching his breath is called the listener.” —Anonymous
In today’s fast-paced high tech world, we like to think we are communicating more efficiently and effectively with other people. But are we really? Good communication means good listening — something we rarely do.
Most people would rather chatter on than listen; so they talk over other people, they interrupt and they finish sentences for others. They fail to listen.
How often have you heard there’s a good reason why God gave us two ears and one mouth? No doubt that was intended to send a message.
Listening has become an under-appreciated facet of communication. We spend more time either talking or thinking about what we are going to say next rather than paying attention to what other people are saying.
Listening is more impressive than talking. Think about it. Have you ever heard anyone complain because you listened too much or you made them feel too good by hanging on to their every word? Probably not.
So what can you do to become a good listener and why is it important?
Let’s start with the last question first. Why should you be a good listener?
• A good listener learns from other people.
• A good listener makes others feel valued and important.
• A good listener attracts people.
• A good listener fosters relationships.
• A good listener improves understanding and assures accuracy.
What can you do to become a good listener?
• Focus on the speaker and maintain eye contact. No staring, please.
• Be present with the speaker by paying attention and not looking around the room.
• Listen without being judgmental. Even if you don’t agree, stay focused.
• Don’t be a sentence–grabber. Pauses are not your opportunity to interrupt and finish the speaker’s sentence.
• Don’t jump in with your sage advice unless the speaker has asked for it.
• Ask for clarification when you don’t understand. People will appreciate your effort.
• Encourage the speaker by using reinforcing statements or by paraphrasing what was said.
• Nod occasionally or offer an “uh-huh” or “I see” from time to time.
One of the best gifts you can give yourself and others is the gift of listening. This gift will come back to you in better relationships, increased business and a more profitable bottom line.
Keep in mind the words of Zig Ziglar: “The biggest communication problem is that we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.”
You can’t go wrong when you listen to understand.
Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, professional speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-598-9812 or go to LydiaRamsey.com to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more.