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Last Updated on August 15, 2018

The Skill That Most People Don’t Have: Active Listening

The Skill That Most People Don’t Have: Active Listening

Active listening is an active process, it is not just simply giving attention to the speakers, but also to show the verbal and non-verbal signs at the same time to let people know you are really digesting what they are saying.

Video Summary

Most people are not really listening

The average person talks at about 225 words per minute, but we can listen at up to 500 words per minute.[1] So our minds are filling in those other 275 words. This shows that we easily succumb to distraction and that efforts are necessary when we want to actively listen to the speakers.

Another reason is hinted by our egocentric self. We love being the spotlight and the centre of conversation, and talking can help us to achieve that! That’s why we tend to listen more than we speak.

How active listening skills make you look much smarter

When you’re actively listening, you’ll make constant feedback. This would make your colleagues and boss think that you’re smart enough to give immediate response and contributing a lot.

How active listening skills make you a charismatic person

“The irony of being a good conversationalist is that talking isn’t the most important piece; listening is what makes you memorable.”

The essence of being a good communicator is your role played in LISTENING, not talking. Imagine that when you come to a friend and talk about a issue that troubles he/she recently, what you are seeking for is a pair of empathetic ears, and an embracing heart. You are not really trying to ask for another person to solve the problem, you just want the other to listen and UNDERSTAND. So, when you actively listen to him/her, you can better understand the person’s situation by detecting his/her emotional changes, the way he/she speaks, and so you can make thoughtful comments to him/her.

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Here’re some useful ways to become an more active listener!

Active listening skills: verbal signs

Paraphrase and make a brief summary

After listening, you can make a short response by briefly summarising the content. When you paraphrase, it can also help your understand what the conversation really means by having you to present the same thing in a different way. Meanwhile, your speaker can also get a chance to clarify when he/she finds something is mis-understood.

Ask questions to show your interest or to clarify

By raising questions, your speaker will think that they are being given attention to and that you are really listening to them. You can show your interest in that topics by asking for more details.

For example, when your boss comes to you in the morning and assign you with a bunch of tasks, and say that every task is highly important and deadline are all hitting very soon. But throughout his conversation, you can notice some particular tasks that he places an emphasis on. So, when your boss have done his talking, you can ask “So it looks like that A and B takes more time and are the focus of the company’s current strategies. So, should I first work on these two projects first?”. And then your boss will be amazed that you really”get” him and know his point, so he will think that YOU are a worker that really understand him and think you two share similar thoughts, so he will like you more and develop a closer relationship!

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Active listening skills: non verbal signs

Make appropriate eye contact

Having eye contact with your speaker is natural and encouraging to the speaker. It shows that you are really listening and trying to understand the content.

But pay attention to your way of looking at others, make sure it is gentle, not too firm and intimidating. Also, be aware of the duration of each eye contact because shy speakers may find themselves feeling embarrassed.

Keep your posture open and welcoming

An open and welcoming gesture can really help the speaker to communicate better. For example, by leaning forward, resting your head on one your hand can show that you are actively listening and welcome the speaker the speak more!

Nod and smile

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Nodding and smiling while you listen are also very positive and affirming signs to the speaker. You show that you are agreeing with what he/she said and everyone LOVES being agreed on. Also, you show that you like the content as well, not hating it!

For example, when your colleague has her presentation on her approach to the problem displayed. When you nod and smile when you find yourself agreeing with her point, that can be really affirming signs to her, and she LOVES it. That assuring actions instantly reduce her fear and feel more confident to continue her point. Your active listening is especially more empowering when most people in the meeting are looking bored and crossing their arms!

One little trick: mimic the body language of the speaker

A little trick of doing the non-verbal communication is that you can simply MIMICK the body language of your speaker! This trick is especially helpful when your speaker talk about an emotional incident. This will make them feel that you really empathize with them.

Want to learn more about active listening skills and be an effective communicator?

3 books we highly recommend:

The Lost Art of Listening, by Michael P. Nichols PhD

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This practical books shares some insights on how to become a better listener, as well as to communicate your idea more effectively. Michael vividly guides you by giving examples of real life situation, easy- to-grasp techniques and practical exercise that you can work on at home.

Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone, by Mark Goulston M.D.

This book particularly suits those who work in the business field. This former business coach shares insights on the art of persuading people, and the key role of listening played in that. It emphasises on how effective listening helps you show show your empathy, and so bridges the gap and break the walls between you and your resistant-looking clients.

Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others, by Andrew Sobel

This absorbing book has its focus on the skills of asking questions. It highlights the powerful impact of an inquisitive and provoking question by sharing the real conversations made by 35 CEO, billionaires and friends. It also thoughtfully provides more than 200 questions that readers can apply when facing challenges at work.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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