In Part 1, we discussed the symptoms of poor listening and what makes us miss what the other person is saying. Here, we outline the skills you need to overcome the barriers that we put up when communicating with people.
1) Focus on the speaker: I know it’s difficult, but you have to try to clear your mind and concentrate on what is being said. The chatter in your own mind will interfere with your listening, so if you quiet that voice by paying attention, you will give yourself the chance to hear exactly what is being said.
2) Interpret the Meaning: Everyone’s interpretation of meaning will be guided by their beliefs, values, experience, biases, conditioning and programming. So, we need to carry out Steven Covey’s advice of ‘listening to understand’ rather than ‘listening to reply’. By attempting to understand the meaning, you are getting inside the mind of the other person, appreciating their point of view and gaining an understanding of the meaning. By doing this, you also resist the urge to interrupt, as your attention is on the other person and not your internal chatter.
3) Evaluate Carefully: When you’ve got the right meaning in mind, you can interpret the value of what you have heard and match it against your own map of reality. Think of the word ‘evaluate’. Here you ‘e-value-ate’ the meaning and assess the worth of the content. Is it useful, is it true?
4) Respond Appropriately: A Danish proverb states ‘He who is afraid of asking is ashamed of learning’. Your response will determine how the conversation goes. Some things the other person says will be self-evidential truths (facts), other things will be less obviously clear (opinions). If you’re unsure of meaning, if the person has employed deletions, distortions or generalisations, then you need to assess whether your understanding is correct by assimilating the facts and asking clarification questions. Then, your response is well thought-out, and takes the conversation forward.
No-one was ever sacked for listening too much. If you show excellent listening skills, you create an environment for deep conversational interaction and other people will enjoy sharing ideas and creativity with you.
Our next part of our MasterClass will cover how to put the message together effectively, so the audience will pay attention.
Originally published: 20 October, 2011
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