Active Listening Skills

listening skills

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.

good listener

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.

listening-skills

The Hare and The Tortoise – New and Improved!

The Hare and The Tortoise

Long ago when I was young and in school, I read a story, of the Hare and the Tortoise. They ran a race.

Hare and the Tortoise

We all know that the Hare rightly thought that the he was fast. But he was wrong in thinking that he could take his victory for granted. He fell asleep during the race. The Tortoise overtook him and won.

hare and tortoise

Later on, the Management Gurus made some additions to the story.

Having lost the race, the Hare does some contemplation. He is unhappy that in spite of the fact that he is a fast runner, because of his casual behavior he lost the race. Now he decided that true to his speed, he must win the race and gain back the lost self-esteem.

So he went to the Tortoise. He said “Lets have another race”. The Tortoise agreed. And they had another race. This time the Hare, did not take it casually. He did not sleep on the way and won the race by a handsome margin.

The Tortoise was sad. At the same time he felt that since his speed is slow, it was just natural that the Hare won the race. But he decided that he must find a way to win back his lost glory. He applied his mind and thought of a plan. After clarifying the plan in mind he went to the Hare and invited him for another race.

hare and the tortoise

The Hare readily agreed. He knew that he would never commit the mistake done in the first race. But then the Tortoise said that this time I will decide the route. The Hare agreed. The route was planned in such a fashion that there were two-three ponds on the way.  When the race began, the Tortoise slowly ran on the land but easily swam through the ponds. On the other hand, the hare had to run around the ponds and lost a lot of time for covering the distance. The result was that the Tortoise won the race this time. He was happy that with his clever plan he could win the race from the Hare who was obviously faster and smarter than him. He credited himself that it was the victory of his wisdom.

The Hare was very upset for some time. But then he thought, why not make friends with the Tortoise. He had some qualities and abilities, while the Tortoise had some others. If pooled together both could become a great force. So he went to the Tortoise, and suggested to him that they would one again follow the same route; but that occasion they would not race each other. He said, “We will try to cover the distance, in the shortest possible time”. The Tortoise thought for some time, brooded over, and asked the Hare to explain what he intended to do.

Hare and tortoise

The Hare said I am smart and fast. You are slow, but wise. Let us pool our speed and wisdom. Let us try to cover the distance in the shortest possible time.  So they ran again – this time together.  At first the Hare carried Tortoise on his back, but when they came to the pond, it was the Tortoise who swam across, carrying the Hare on his back. In this manner they were actually make it to the finishing line, much sooner than before.

Hare and The Tortoise

The moral of this story is that if we work together, we win together!

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Loyalty

Mark Twain
Mark Twain

Mark Twain was a unique American writer. One cannot find another writer who could laugh at the stark realities of life and who could succinctly identify the irony so very dominant in our lives.

He once said, “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man. ”

It is ironic that the man who has evolved so much, who is civilized and educated over the centuries when compared to a dog miserably falls short of the quality of loyalty, which is so clearly visible in the pet animal.

But, in the fast changing world concepts change. The big question is that for leading a happy, progressive life which are the principles that transcend the limits of time and space. What are the principles that we must stick to even today? What are the principles that need to be discarded or modified?

Thus, our story of the dog and the man brings us to the core question about ‘loyalty’ and its importance today. I seek your participation to review the virtue of ‘loyalty’ in the present environment.

Choose one of the four:

    [polldaddy poll=7512705]

‘Voice Modulation’

We hear a lot about voice modulation in the age of public presentations.

What is modulation? And why is it so important?

Voice Modulation is your ability, rather, talent to bring in variance in pace, pause, pitch, emphasis on the key word and the tone. Unless you modulate your voice while speaking to a group or even a lone listener, the chances are that you speech will not be effective at all. We have often seen some members of the audience dozing away while the speaker continues his/her speech. Now, I will explain- pace, pause, pitch, emphasis on the key word and the tone.

Pace: if you speak very fast you will not be understood but, if you speak very slowly you tend to become dull and listeners will not like to listen to you. However, when you speak with a medium speech, though audience can understand you but the same pace of your words will render your speech monotonous.

Pause: Just as in written text you have coma, full stop, paragraph and other punctuation marks, your speech too must reflect the same by means of pauses of different durations. This will make the speech effective.

Pitch: It is the note on which you speak. While attending a solemn meeting you cannot speak on higher pitch. But at the same time if the commentator of a football match speaks at a low pitch, nobody will like to listen to him.

Emphasis on the key word: Just as you get unwanted results if you Google a wrong key word, different meaning will be conveyed by the same sentence when you emphasis a wrong word.

Tone: Tone is most dicey. It is easy to control the words and the sentences. But it is very difficult to control the tone. Tone represents the emotions with which you speak. Often times, due to inappropriate tone the speaker lands into trouble.

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)

Interpersonal Relations

Our interpersonal relations with others depend upon various factors. Two most important factors are one – our behavior towards the concerned persons, and two and how we speak to the concerned persons.The contents of what we convey to our peers and friends will primarily depend upon our behavior. If our conduct to certain persons has been consistently good. It shows our regard towards them. But how we speak to them, is equally important if not more. The efficacy of our speech can be improved by making our speech articulate. Besides, we also need to become good listeners. People want that when they speak, total attention of the listener/listeners should be focused on their speech. Their ego is hurt if they find listeners inattentive.

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