Listening is an under-rated skill. It is the most important aspect of effective communication; ‘First seek to understand’ is a sound guiding principle.
Listening isn’t just a ‘nice to have’, neither should it be a luxury to be used on certain occasions. Effective listening does far more than ensuring that the speaker is heard. It creates a bond, however temporary, which enables reciprocal understanding as well as helping the speaker to organise their thoughts.
It is easier not to listen than it is to listen properly. We frequently listen while assuming that we know what the other person is going to say next. The need for listening is self-evident, yet it is difficult to do it well, particularly in a stressful situation such as when conflict occurs or we fear that it might.
Listening effectively enables us to understand the speakerʼs perceptions, feelings and underlying messages in a way that avoids ambiguity and uncertainty. This is done by giving the other person our full attention and checking that we have understood. This is how:
- Keep a clear mind, uncluttered by your own predictions, judgements or the need to prepare a rebuttal or rejoinder
- Ask the other person to explain exactly what they mean
- Summarise your understanding of the speakerʼs comments
- Ask pertinent questions to further clarify the situation.
In addition to helping the listener understand better and remain more objective, this process also enables the speaker to approach their thoughts and ideas in a more focused way.
Good listening is a dynamic and unfolding process which builds rapport and helps the both speaker to clarify their thinking, as well as enabling the listener to understand. Hone your listening skills with this handy guide.
Download my free Handout – Effective Listening.