• Tony Richards

The Art of Listening

One of the first things I teach any employee or anyone I personally coach is there are two parts to communication, and you can’t do them simultaneously.

They are:

1. Transmitting (talking) 2. Receiving (listening)

While many people actually have difficulty being effective in both parts, listening is the part most evident. Some folks can actively talk on for several minutes, but to actively listen, therein lies the challenge for many people. If you don’t slow down to really hear what your superior, your friends, your co-workers, your wife or husband, or (the subject of my blog on Monday) your customers are saying to you, you will make mistakes that will lower their appraisal of your performance and the evaluation of your relationship.

If your head is so busy you can’t hear what is being communicated, you will miss important facts and details. Your inability to listen will cause you to make mistakes. If it’s important to you to please any of the aforementioned people or groups, it’s essential to understand exactly what they want.

It sounds simple, but you really have to focus on what’s being said. This takes discipline. You must discipline yourself to listen, otherwise, they will think you are listening, when, in reality, you are a million miles away. Just because you are looking into their eyes doesn’t really mean you are listening. If you are really going to actively listen, you have to push everything else out of your mind and deliberately focus on what they’re saying.

Train yourself to be a listener.

I can usually tell when someone is really listening ny the kinds of questions they ask regarding the conversation. Asking true clarifying questions is a sign of the active listener. When the conversation is finished, both parties should understand exactly what was being communicated because both were focused and listening to the other. Those who cultivate and develop the skill of listening make good team players because they’re better able to understand other people’s opinions and positions.

Some people are full of ego and arrogance, they already have their thoughts on the particular situation and they are just waiting for you to finish so they can give their thoughts or shoot you with a pithy comeback. They aren’t listening TO you, they are listening FOR you to finish.

Quick assumptions make for poor communication. People are prevented from really hearing what someone is telling them when they assume they already know what the person is trying to communicate. It is really unwise to assume you understand your supervisor’s instructions. If you are smart, you’ll do these things:

  1. Take the time to ask good clarifying questions

  2. Make sure you understand what the other person is asking you to do

  3. If you have any doubt at all ask more questions, don’t make any steps forward until you clear up all questions

  4. If you assume or pretend to understand when you really don’t, you are responsible for any mistake or lack of forward movement, hearing is the foundation for all future actions

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