Studies have concluded that 70 percent of the average day is spent in communicating. However, only 10 percent of that communicating is done in writing: therefore, the rest is verbal. Also, it has been discovered that most people speak at a rate of 125 words per minute and that people can absorb or process words at a rate of 400-500 words per minute. The question becomes what do we do with that extra capacity to listen?
Since gathering information and connecting with people are important dimensions of leadership it seems only smart to always be looking for ways to improve the skills of listening and questioning. Remember what I have said before: “In Self-Coaching you are the person builder and value developer…who is trying to focus on your strengths and find ways to reach your full potential. Your goal of becoming a more effective leader is enhanced if you learn to improve your ability to actively listen, confront issues, and problem solve.”
Listening Habits or Mannerisms to Avoid
- Prejudging the subject or speaker
- Criticizing the speaker or manner of delivery
- Getting over-stimulated about the subject and therefore getting ahead of the speaker or not remaining objective
- Attempting to be “too” complete in taking notes
- Audience distractions – causing them or being part of them
- Letting personal prejudices get between you and the material “hot buttons”
- Not paying attention to the speaker
Positive Listening Habits
- Evaluate the message for its pertinence to you and your job
- Try to detect a central message and avoid getting “hung-up”
- Avoid or overcome distractions
- Maintain emotional control
- Use extra listening capacity to anticipate where the speaker is going
- Focus on how the message fits or contradicts your ideas and thoughts
Active listening is only half of the communication process. The other half is the art of effective questioning. As a good questioner you show interest and are demonstrating the “golden rule” of listening: MMFI (Make Me Feel Important). You will encourage people to more fully develop their answers and this will provide you invaluable information and insight. Setting your concerns and self-interest aside and “being there” in the “here and now” with the other person is rare and powerful. If you are truly listening you not only hear the words, but also the emotions, fears and issues of the other person. This provides a unique bond of empathy and an opportunity to learn from others.
CPR Technique for better understanding and personal connections
Ask questions to check your understanding of the meaning of the person’s words or ask person to clarify by telling you more… use open-ended questions.
- Please tell me more about that issue….
- “When you say __________, what exactly do you mean?”
In your own words repeat or restate what you think the other person said.
- “Let me see if I understand you correctly…”
- It seems to me, if I understand you correctly, that you want to find a new job. Have got it right?
Use reflection to display empathy and to check your perception of the person’s emotions. There are two components of reflection:
- Tentative statement (“It appears that you are overwhelmed with forms”)
- Attempt to identify the feeling (“You’re frustrated with…”) Identify the feeling being expressed, if you are wrong the person will set you straight.
Additional Active Listen Tools
Tune out distractions. Concentrate. Look the person in the eye and turn toward them to clearly communicate your interest in what they are saying. Do not multitask when talking with others.
Give the person time to collect their thoughts and continue. Use non-verbal cues to demonstrate your receptivity.
What is the higher purpose for resolving this matter?
What is the ultimate reason for doing this activity?
What is the outcome that you want?
What are your goals?
Withhold judgment and actively listen – When interacting with others, attempt to take their entire experience into account and take time to understand the full context of that interaction to
the best of your ability. Refrain from making snap judgments and quick first impressions. Try to see the world through their eyes by asking relevant questions not canned ones. Before framing your question reflect on your past relationship with this person and hoe that may influence your ongoing interactions? How do you think they truly feel about you? Given what you are now discussing what information do you need to better understand their point of view, then ask your question.