7 Steps to becoming a good listener

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Listening is as important for good conversation as speech is. Your ability to influence or convince people increases manifold, if you develop good listening skills. There are many other advantages of being a good listener. These include:

i) Learning from listening:  When you talk, you repeat what you already know but when you listen, you are likely to learn something new.

ii) Active listening is the secret to discover great stories:  Active listening enables you to understand and assimilate not only what is said but also what are left unsaid. The body language and the modulation of the speech reveals all.

iii) Improving relations:  Everyone wants to the other to listen. Good Listening raises the self-esteem of the speaker. At the same time, you also become important in your own assessment. More importantly, the speaker finds that you are giving respect to his views. As a result the relationship between two individuals improves.

iv)Unnecessary arguments avoided:  In the meetings most arguments take place due to lack of proper listening and understanding. It is said that first understand and then be understood. You already know what needs to be said if you listen to the other person appropriately and you have understood him/her.

v) Overall improvement of productivity:  If you are a good listener and make the speaker feel that you are, the conversation becomes more focused. Brevity replaces verbosity and time and energy is saved by everyone.

There would be many other advantages of being a good listener but I think these are enough to convince everyone about the dire need to become a good listener.  How can one become a good listener? What are the steps we must take for becoming one? I list below seven steps which when followed would result in development of adequate listening skills. These are:

Step I: Prepare yourself to listen. Relax and focus on what the speaker says. If any other thought is coming to your mind, put it aside when listening to someone. Do not try to think and solve any other problem like you might miss your train or about the argument you might had with your boss and the like.

Step II: Make the speaker comfortable and put him at ease. Let them feel free to express what they have in mind. Maintaining an eye contact will make the speaker feel that you are listening.

Step III: Maintain your patience. If you are not patient your body language will reveal that. And it is not possible to listen properly unless you are relaxed and  are not in a hurry.

Step IV: You must empathize. Try to understand people by looking at the situation from their perspective. If the speaker says something with which you do not agree, keep an open mind and don’t snub.

Step V:  Avoid your personal prejudices. You may have one style of saying things. You may be fluent in language; everyone is not. So, you must not negate others on any such basis. Give them a fair opportunity to explain.

Step VI: Listen to the body language. You can listen with your ears. But you can also listen with your eyes. Body language is extremely important when you are engaged any critical discussion.

Step VII: Ideas are important, not just the words. Listen to understand the ideas. The speaker may not be an expert in communications and may not use precise language. In that case reframe the sentence according to your understanding and ask if you have understood well.

The above steps to improve your listening skills aptly deserve the time and effort you may spend. The benefits are immense.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

7 Speech Blemishes that Wreck Confidence

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Speech was never as important as it is now. Today, it’s necessary that business leaders must be able to speak clearly and effectively. There are a number of speech blemishes which cause embarrassment while making presentations. Sometimes an executive in an important conversation finds himself/herself less than ‘up to the mark’. This is best avoided. I list below 7 of the blemishes which need to be addressed.

  1. Lack of clarity in speech: Often times we find that the speech of a person is not as articulate as it should be. Sometime they speak too fast; sometimes they mumble some words in a sentence. Though overall message is communicated but listener finds it’s difficult to assimilate. Each and every word, therefore, should be spoken clearly. The problem arises due to improper/inadequate use of speech organs. While the sound is produced by the vocal cord, the words are created by the speech organs.
  1. Inability to hold the attention of the listener: If the speaker does not modulate the voice, it is difficult to hold the attention of the listener. Modulation is the speaker’s ability to bring in variance in pace, pause, pitch, emphasis on the keyword and the tone. This can be corrected with the help of appropriate speech exercises.
  1. Use of filler words: At times, one finds that the speaker repetitively uses filler words which are: ‘like’, ‘you know’, ‘actually’, ‘basically’ etc. The filler words could also be just sounds uh…uh……and uh…. plus other such fillers. Since they are used as a matter of habit, so it requires focused attention to bring in change of such habit.
  1. Improper breathing: It is breath which creates the sound. We have to have sufficient amount of breath in our lungs. This requires practice of deep breathing. The best practice is to take breath at the time when you pause, and consciously, until it is a part of your speech habit.
  1. Improper pause: Pause if not taken at a right spot mitigates the efficacy of the speech. Pause must be taken at the end of a clause or at the end of the sentence. It should not happen that we have to take a pause because of the lack of breath.
  1. Body language: The speaker must be aware and maintain proper body language. Business etiquette demand that he/she must maintain just right kind of eye contact- neither more nor less. It helps in bringing about a rapport between the speaker and the listener.
  1. Last but not the least; I must talk about the stage fright. Even experienced speakers suffer from stage fright, primarily due to the speech blemishes detailed above. Further, stage fright also inflicts the speaker due to lack of preparation and not understanding the needs and the profile of the audience.

Thanks for reading.

Listen twice as much as you speak!

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Today I will speak to you about importance of listening skills. Title of my speech is: “Listen twice as much as you speak”. That itself speaks a lot about how important listening is.

What are listening skills? How you go about developing these? And what for? What is the difference between hearing and listening?

All these questions are simply answered with the definition of communication. We communicate to exchange ideas and views. We communicate to influence people, to negotiate deals. So, it’s necessary not just to hear but to listen, understand and assimilate information contained in the speech. Then only we can respond. But if we don’t listen but just hear, and if we are only anxious to say what we want to say, the objectives of communication is lost.

Listening becomes very easy with some modification of our habits. These are:

  1. We must focus on the speaker. All other thoughts should not be allowed to tax the mind or to divert it. Normally as many as 50,000 thoughts come to mind each day. But with efforts, we can reduce their number. When we focus on the speaker we can surely assimilate the information the speaker is trying to convey.
  2. While listening in one on one conversation, we must not interrupt. Even when we don’t agree with what the speaker’s opinion is. We must be patient enabling them to complete their statements.
  3. Your objective of communication will be served better if you make the speaker comfortable. How do you do that? By nodding your head, other body language, gestures, or just say yes, please go ahead etc. The speaker must be sure that you are listening. Your listening makes the speaker comfortable.
  4. Look at the views of the speaker from their perspective. Try to examine to issue while wearing speaker’s shoes.
  5. You must practice patience. You must never try to complete speaker’s sentences even if you are confirming or appreciating their thoughts.
  6. All speakers may not be very articulate. They may have some speech blemishes. Faults like using filler words, inaccurate pronunciation, breathing at wrong place in a sentence etc. You must ignore these and focus on the idea the speaker is presenting.
  7. Survey reveals that 60% of the communication happens with the body language. So closely watch the body language of the speaker to understand speaker’s intent.
  8. Last but not the least, identify the idea by putting together the pieces of information the speaker has vocalized. All speakers are not expurts in speaking skills. So help them. It also serves you.

Thank you.

 

Active Listening Skills

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In today’s fast paced world, communication is extremely important. In fact, in business it is critical. However, communication is equally important at home when interacting with your own near and dear ones. It is also important during social interactions, when you meet people. There is no doubt that your speech should be very articulate. The speech will communicate the ideas that you want to convey. However it is even more important to be an active listener!

Communication is always is a two way process. Your articulate speech will go in vain if you are not listening to the person you are speaking to. You can even listen to the person with your eyes. Body language tells all. Facial expressions clearly denote whether the opposite person is listening to you or not. This means that the best vocal capabilities will not be effective until these are matched with equally attentive listening abilities.

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Now let us examine how to be a good listener. Some of the qualities of a good listener are as under:

  1. You should listen as a friend. Often your opinion will be different from the person who is speaking. We are all individuals and therefore no two persons think alike. Listening as a friend enables reconciliation of contradicting opinions.
  2. Further more, it is necessary for the listener to make the speaker appreciate that you are an attentive listener. When somebody is speaking try not to fidget with anything on your table. You should not gaze at the news paper / magazine on your table. Even looking at the speaker with a lost expression, will convey an impression that you are brooding over something else and not listening to what is being said. Thus you should not only listen actively but you should also show to speaker that you’re listening actively.
  3. Encourage the speaker to join you in the comfort zone. When you have removed all distractions and you make the speaker aware that you are listening to them, you must encourage him to open up by your friendly nodding of the head smile wherever desirable and maintain a comfortable eye contact. While speaking on telephone you can use words and expressions like – ‘yes’,‘go ahead’, ‘hmmm’… etc. These are the voice symbols which tell the other person that you are actively listening during the phone conversation.
  4. Act but never react. Whenever the discussion is held around heavy states one as to be extra careful. If the speaker raises the voice it is necessary for you to maintain calm. However you must never give an impression that anybody can take you for granted. This can be achieved by not reacting to any unsavory remarks by the speaker. Instead you should use such words and expressions which will make it explicit to the intruder that you are unshakable. It is this state of calmness which will unnerve your opponent. The expression with ‘Act never react’ simply means to use your mind and reply appropriately, firmly but without raising your voice if the opponent has raised his.
  5. You need to comprehend whatever you have listened. It is always a good idea to summarize and repeat briefly the points you have just heard. It will help you to understand all the points clearly; and in case there is any confusion the same will be clarified there and them.
  6. As a good listener you have a right to ask questions to the speaker. The speaker will never object to relevant questions which are briefly asked.

To conclude, good listening skills is not a rocket science. It just requires an empathetic attitude and an attentive mind, and forms that basis for long lasting relationships.

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Are you listening?

While talking on the telephone often you ask the listener – “Are you Listening?” If there is no sound of response such as ‘hmm’, ‘yes’, ‘please go ahead’, ‘I understand’, etc. you tend to feel that your words are falling on deaf ears. More so when you are negotiating on the telephone.

But what happens when you talk face to face?

The significance of your words is reduced to just 10 to 15%. ‘How you say it?’ – becomes more important than what you say. Even when you are articulate the efficacy of your words will not go down unless you compliment your words with voice modulation. Modulation is your ability to bring variance in Pace, Pause, Pitch, Emphasis on the keywords and the Tone.

Further, you body language* too is extremely important for making the communication convincing and effective.

Attentive listening to others is the key to build good relations. Listen to others and they will listen to you!

*(facial expression, posture, gestures, eye contact)