The biggest conversation problem is we don’t listen to understand – we seem to listen to respond.
Whether you’re interviewing for a new job, meeting with a prospective client or giving a presentation to your boss/colleagues – your success depends largely on your communication skills.
Unfortunately, most people think of communication as talking or writing. They think primarily about getting their message across to the other person, and or responding to what the other person is trying to say.
However, the key to being a great communicator is learning to listen.
Understanding what the other person is thinking will help you tailor your message to their needs and your future actions around that particular topic. This is the best way for you to succeed, become a better listener, a better employee, a better employer – even just generally a better person.
Focus on the other person
Remember the last time you tried to carry on a conversation with someone who was looking around the room or checking his/her watch?
Well imagine what it’s like for a potential employer.
Let’s say Joe is interviewing with Susan the marketing manager at ABC Company. Joe is prepared. He carefully explains why he wants the job and what he can do for the company. Trouble is Susan notices that Joe frequently looks down or gazes out the window. She finds it difficult to take Joe seriously.
Naturally, you’ll want to avert your gaze from time to time in order to avoid starring. Try to do this while still focusing on the other person. Practice maintaining eye contact with friends and colleagues. Soon you’ll feel comfortable in any situation.
Stop thinking about you
“No man would listen to you talk if he didn’t know it was his turn next.” (Quote from Ed Howe)
While this seems a bit harsh, we believe that there is probably an element of truth to it.
At one time or another, everyone has been guilty of planning a response while the other person is still talking.
While doing so – are you able to continue to listen intently and understand that person while formulating your response?
Maybe you’re meeting with an important guest, eagerly waiting to answer a question, be careful. Don’t be so eager to dazzle with your knowledge that you miss what they are really asking.
Don’t be afraid of silence. Practice taking a few moments to gather your thoughts once the other person has finished speaking.
Pay attention to more than the words, language has music
Listen to the music; you will hear it in the other person’s tone of voice, their body language and the volume in which they speak. Once you piece all the notes together you can better understand if the words and tone agree? It’s like seeing a fake smile, when someone truly smiles their eyes sparkle, their face lights up and smile wrinkles from all over the face. When someone “puts on” a smile only the corners of her mouth turn up and there is no spark or wrinkles.
The next time you’re in a meeting listen to the words AND the music. There’s a difference between “OK, I’ll take care of it” and “OK, I’ll take care of it!” Make sure that you’re getting the right message by watching and listening.
Many times we have heard the old saying that we have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak. This is definitely great advice for everyone who wants to develop better communication skills.
Being a good listener is more than being there while someone is speaking. Being a good listener means hearing and understanding the message that’s being sent.