Not to be paranoid, but the people in your world watch everything you do. And one thing they always notice is your listening skills or lack of them … because it impacts how they feel about themselves as well as you.
As an executive coach, I conduct 360-degree interviews on behalf of my clients, gathering feedback from people they have selected. After all, it’s hard to grow or get better at anything if you don’t fully understand where you are right now.
In the course of those interviews, I’ve learned that the interviewees usually comment on my clients’ listening skills, saying such things as, “He loses interest quickly … I’m not ever sure I have her full attention … He jumps into the conversation with his own thoughts before I’ve even finished sharing mine … or … If I’ve got a problem, I know she’s really going to listen to me.”
In fact, it might be worth considering what the people in your world would say about your listening effectiveness. Would they say you’re really great at it? Or would they say something less flattering? My research says that most people would grade you less than you would hope.
Here are a few tips that will improve your listening.
► 1. Practice more silence.
In our culture, there seems to be an overwhelming fear of silence. As soon as one person finishes speaking, someone else jumps in with their comment in less than a second.
And one of the keys to effective listening is found in the word itself … LISTEN. Shuffle the letters around and you come up with SILENT.
In other words, slow down your conversations. Take a moment to reflect on what you just heard the other person say.
It’s very caring, because you’re telling the other person that their comments are worth more than an instantaneous reaction.
One way to do that is use my 1, 2, or 3-gulp rule. After someone speaks, imagine taking gulp of coffee before you respond. And if their comment is especially heavy or very important, you can even imagine, or actually take 2 or 3 gulps of coffee before you respond. The gulps give you time to think and the silence communicates a great deal of respect.
Try it. My clients that have tried this technique says it has done wonders for their relationships.
To dramatically improve your listening, I invite you to my VIP (virtual interactive program) on LISTEN UP! How To Triple Your Listening Effectiveness this Thursday, April 20th, from 9-10:30 am ET.
When you register now, you qualify for a series of free learning bonuses and you can bring someone else along with you, if you like, at an additional savings rate.
►2. Ask more questions.
One of the biggest barriers to effective communication is the illusion that communication has taken place.
If you’re like most people, you assume you understand the other person but seldom check it out to make sure you got it correctly.
I saw it all the time when I was a professor. Some students wouldn’t ask any questions. They just presumed they understood everything and then they wondered why they didn’t do very well on a test.
It’s like the college student who spent hours studying for a final exam in his zoology class but didn’t ask any questions about the test to make sure he was studying the right material. When he entered the lecture hall on the day of the test, he saw several pedestals at the front of the room. There was a partially covered bird cage on each stand and only the legs of the bird in each cage were visible. The student chose a seat in the front row, hoping to get a better view of the subjects once the exam started.
The professor soon entered the hall and gave the instructions for the test. The students were to observe the legs of each bird and then identify its genus, species, common name, and habitat.
The student began to panic. There was no way he could determine anything about the birds by just looking at their legs. As the time passed, his attempts to complete the exam seemed futile. Finally, his frustration got the better of him and he marched up to the professor, slammed his unfinished paper down on the desk, and said, “This is ridiculous! How could you expect us to know these birds by looking at their legs? I’m outta here!”
As the student made his way to the door, the professor noticed that the student’s test did not have a name written on it. “Excuse me,” the professor called out. “What’s your name?”
The student pulled up the legs of his trousers and said, “You tell me!”
Funny? Perhaps. But all too real. It’s another example of the old adage: When you assume you understand someone, you make an ass of you and me.
So, ask … more … questions. It will make you a better listener.
►3. Listen to vocal tones.
Great listeners listen to more than the words that are spoken. They listen to the other person’s tone of voice as well. Because 38% of a message’s meaning is to be found in the tone that is being used, according to communication expert Dr. Albert Mehrabian.
If you miss the vocal tones, you’re going to have some serious misunderstandings. That’s why email can be dangerous. You get the words but miss the vocal tone that adds color, nuance, and meaning to those words.
In essence, when you listen to the words, you’re looking for objective content, information, and meaning. But when you listen to the vocal tones, you also get the other person’s subjective feelings, which they may or may not be directly communicating.
Take the words “May I go with you?” as an example. If the speaker raises his tone at the end of question, they’re giving you a choice of answering either “yes” or “no.” They’re expressing a feeling of curiosity.
However, if someone asks you the same question using the same words, but lowers their tone at the end of the question, they’re being assertive, almost commanding. They’re expressing a feeling of urgency.
So vocal tones are all about emotion. And great listeners and emotionally intelligent people get that. But some people don’t.
That became clear in a university class on “Emotional Extremes” for psychiatry students. The professor asked, “What’s the opposite of joy?” One student replied, “Sadness.”
“The opposite of depression?” the professor asked another student. “Elation,” he replied.
“The opposite of woe?” the prof asked a young woman from Texas. The Texan replied, “Sir, I believe that would be giddy up.”
The point is obvious. Listen to both the words and the vocal tones and you will become a much better listener.
Let me show you five super effective listening skills this Thursday from 9-10:30 ET (8 am CT, 7 am MT, 6 am PT) during our virtual program on LISTEN UP! How To Triple Your Listening Effectiveness. I can assure you it will be a very worthwhile investment.