Active Listening, the Most Important Communication Skill

March 17, 2022 by  

Hearing is an ability unless one is hearing impaired, but Listening is an art and needs to be learned. It requires focus and concentration as well as understanding all the interferences that impact our ability to listen well. In addition, in order to get good at it, one must practice it.
We are not mind readers so cannot tell if someone is really listening to us, even if they look as if they are because we are not mind readers and so have no idea what they heard. That is why one needs to get concrete feedback from the “listener” to discover what they did hear.

Do not ask them if they understood you because they will always answer yes because they do not want you to think that they were not paying attention or that they are not very smart.

Here is the question to ask: “What do you think I expect of you?” If they can answer that question, they can show you that they in fact did hear what you told them, otherwise, you will not get what you want or need and that causes resentment, disappointment, and stress, which during this pandemic is the last thing we need.

Because we are not mind readers we do not know if they are not feeling well, are too hot, too cold or uncomfortable in another way. We do not know if they have a problem of their own that they are worrying about or trying to solve and all of those issues will super cede anything you might want them to hear. In addition, never “assume” as that makes an ass out of you and me and you cannot be sure that they did hear you unless you get some good feedback. So again, if you are assuming you will not likely get what you are expecting or needing.

If you have an important conversation to have with a person or persons, try to have it in a location without distractions like people walking in and out, side talking, construction or traffic noises, business machines like faxes or telephones ringing or even copiers working. All of those distractions make it very difficult for a person to concentrate on what you are trying to tell them so you will not likely get what you want.

Again, just because someone is looking at you while you are speaking you cannot be sure they are listening and heard what you wanted them to hear, unless you get some good feedback that tells you that they were listening and did hear what you needed them to hear.

Sadly, we are not taught how to listen, and again, hearing and listening are not the same. As I already mentioned, listening requires concentration and focus and if that is not exercised it is very difficult to receive a message fully. Most people think they are good listeners but honestly, few actually are because they do not know how it works.  It is too bad that listening is not taught to children and adults so that they can do it effectively and reduce resentment, disappointment and stress.

In order to be a good team leader, or a leader of any sort, or a professional of any sort, one must be a good listener in order to learn about your team members, your patients, even your customers. If we listen well, we can learn what matters to them, what concerns them and what they may be seeking and can help them get what they want and help them to improve their health or increase their abilities and knowledge. Especially when something goes wrong, it is so important to listen so that we can fix the problem and make the person happy again. Without active listening we will miss opportunities and not get what we need or want……that is why you need to ask for feedback from the supposed listener.
Again, active listening is really the most important communication skill as it can prevent so many problems before they happen.

Are You an Effective Communicator?

January 5, 2016 by  

Many of us feel we are good communicators because we have had years of practice….been doing it since we were born! However, the truth is that most of us are not very good at it and as a result we experience much conflict, confusion, resentment, disappointment, complaining, even anger.  So how can we avoid those outcomes and enjoy more win/win outcomes, more of what we want along with higher productivity, efficiency and creativity?

Here are some great tips that will help to improve your communication skills.

  1. Practice Active Listening, the most important communication skill. The more you listen, get clarification that the message you sent was the one received and that the person not only heard what you said, but also processed the content as you wished and arrived at the expected outcome for that exchange, the happier both of you will be! This attentive, focused listening will result in less miscommunication and therefore better relationships in all aspects of your life. Try it not only at work but also at home.
  2. Try to understand with whom you are speaking…..are they a controlling type of person who has little patience for the anecdotal version of anything because they are very organized, competent and decisive. Are they a supportive sort of person who requires clear, specific directions, encouragement, support and reassurances that they are doing things as expected. Are they an analytical type of person who needs more time to gather sufficient data in order to make a decision or design an appropriate system or process as requested. Finally, are they a promoter type person who relishes attention, has loads of ideas but has trouble organizing themselves to actually get things done. No matter who they are, if you can determine their personality type you can then adapt your communication style to suit their perception of situations which will make your message easier for them to receive and interpret as you wish.
  3. It is important for all of us to become accountable for our actions and deeds as well as when dealing with others. There is no point in walking around with a stomach ache if you feel someone has offended or disrespected you in some way, they are not a mind reader, so you must let them know how you feel, but do it in an honest and respectful manner. If that does not work, next try to come up with a strategy to overcome this issue so that you no longer are feeling badly. Finally if that does not work either, you may have to leave the situation in order to save yourself.
  4. If we are going to deal with situations we often need to be assertive. There is a fine line between being aggressive and assertive….be sure to state your opinion in an honest and respectful manner and be prepared to have to do this more than once in order to get what you desire. In the end, you may not get exactly what you want, as we cannot make people do things they do not wish to do, however you will feel better for having spoken up and tried to “fix” the situation.
  5. We must realize that men and women do not communicate in the same way, therefore, again, we must adjust our communication style to suit whichever gender we are conversing with. Women are fond of the anecdotal version of the day or issue, men usually are not, they prefer the key points and will ask for more detail if they want it. Women often talk about feelings and generally are concerned more about process and inclusion, rather than the direct outcome. Men are more focused on the outcome and results. That does not mean that women do not like results, they do, but may reach them in less direct manner.
  6. Dealing with difficult people is bound to occur at some point so realizing that often they are behaving as they do as a result of some previous experience, it is not truly “about you”. The behavior is their way of maintain control, deflecting blame from themselves or avoiding making decisions. In order to deal effectively we need to try strategies that do not take away their power or make them more defensive. In the end, we may not win, but we can try leverage their strengths to both their and our advantage but listening well and being assertive as necessary.

If you can employ some of the tips offered above I expect you will enjoy more win/win outcomes, less miscommunication and ultimately more creativity, productivity and happiness. When we are happy we also enhance our immune systems, so as an extra bonus you will also be healthier!