Regardless of the type of job, everyone could benefit from enhanced listening skills. Old habits, like assuming you know what your boss wants from you in a project, can create turmoil and unnecessary misunderstanding. There are techniques to improve listening skills and enhance communication with others. Read on for better listening tips.
- Listen with all of your attention.
Very often, what is being said does not jive with the way a person is sitting, the hand gestures he is making or the tone of his voice. When something doesn’t add up, you need to probe until you can uncover why there is a discrepancy. Perhaps the boss disagrees with the scope of a project or questions the validity. Get as much inside information as you can before moving forward.
- Listen responsively to clarify the facts.
Too often, we hear the boss delegate some task to us, and we assume he is asking for something that was done before. He barely finishes telling us what he needs and we are off on another topic without exploring the information at hand. Slow down. Listen carefully to what is being said. Most importantly, repeat back to him what you think he is saying and wanting from you so that he can make corrections or uncover any miscommunications. Then, write it down, at that moment. Your notes will help you “re-live” the conversation, making it less likely a problem will occur.
- Assume nothing, and you won’t be disappointed.
Breaking away from established patterns of behavior requires conscious and deliberate retraining. To stop talking and focus on the other person, instead of formulating ideas in your own head on how you are going to respond to them, is very challenging. It is particularly hard for extroverted types, who are inclined to fill up all the silent spaces with talk of their own.
Focusing on the other person also will allow you to postulate on the motives behind the words. For example, when the body language is off kilter, you are going to notice it. When the person is upset or very excited about the topic, you can better appreciate what is being said, and can also analyze why it is being said in the current context. This is the time to probe, ask deeper questions and get the inside track on the how the person feels about what he is presenting.
Listening skills can be improved with practice. Slow down, be silent and tune in your senses to the other person, giving them your full attention. Avoid formulating responses until you have heard all the information. Think about what you have heard and ask intelligent questions, repeat back to the other person what you think they said and allow them to clarify or correct you. You may find that work flows more smoothly when you are fully tuned in, present in the moment and hearing information the way the communicator intended for it be heard.