Become a Better Listener: Part 1


Greetings, in my last post, I described the 4 barriers to effective listening.  These include the following:

1.  A natural tendency to want to speak first and focus on our own agenda.

2.  Negative perceptions regarding the speaker and/or topic.

3.  Our ability to think much faster than someone can speak.

4.  Emotional, external, internal and cultural noise.

Fortunately listening is not as difficult as we sometimes make it out to be.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that there are two aspects of effective listening.  The first, and most obvious, is that listening involves understanding the message being sent by your communication partner in the way that they intend.  The second, and frequently neglected aspect, is that effective listening involves the articulation of your understanding to your communication partner.  In other words, you demonstrate to that person that you clearly understand his or her message.  There are six steps that you can take to improve your listening in both areas.  Here is the first, and arguably most important step:

Use active listening on a regular basis.  Active listening consists of the listener’s attempt to give back (or reflect) what has been stated by the speaker.  If you are going to effectively reflect the feelings and content of the speaker’s message, then you really have to pay attention.  You can apply active listening by using a one sentence reflective statement that paraphrases what the speaker has said.  A good reflective statement includes two parts: an affective element and a content element.  The affective element identifies the feelings of your communication partner.  The content element describes why the person feels this way.  For example, if you are talking with a colleague who is upset because of a significant policy change at work you might say, “It sounds like you are really frustrated because the new policy is going to make it harder to do your job.”  Make it easier to use a reflective statement by applying a sentence prefix such as, “What I hear you saying is…” or “Sounds like you…”

NEXT POST – October 20, 2008

Become a Better Listener: Part 2

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