The Art Of Listening
Win-win communication not only fosters understanding, affirmation, validation and appreciation, but it also creates an atmosphere of trust, honor and respect. When someone truly listens to you, don't you feel special?
Listening well is a two-way street, and to be effective communicators, we must all listen well to each other. One-way listening can be equated to driving down a one-way street the wrong way. It's dangerous, it can get you into trouble and it can be expensive, as illustrated in the following example.
Sam, a dispatcher for a national moving company in Philadelphia, gave Mike, a new driver, an assignment to go to Portsmouth to make a household goods delivery.
When Mike arrived in Portsmouth, he called Sam for further instructions. As Sam gave Mike the necessary information, Mike got a strange feeling that something wasn't quite right.
Mike asked Sam for the complete address, which was Maple Street in Portsmouth, Virginia. Well, Mike was in Portsmouth, but it was Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Mike was ten hours away from where he was supposed to be. He had traveled north in the wrong direction.
Not only did this cost the company time and money, but also the owner of the goods was not pleased.
What caused this expensive mistake? Ineffective listening by both parties. In his haste, Mike didn't listen to all the information that Sam gave him, and Sam neglected to get accurate acknowledgment from Mike stating that he understood the instructions.
Focus on the Caller
Listening well is a skill that requires practice.
- Someone who listens well easily establishes rapport with others.
- Good listeners attract others because they focus on the speaker completely.
- They have a positive energy that makes you want to be in their company.
- They are effective in their jobs because, by listening and asking the appropriate questions, they know exactly what needs to be done and how to do it.
To be effective when interacting over the telephone, hone your verbal skills and focus completely on what the speaker is saying.
Listen closely to your intuition. The best example of this is to observe how blind people communicate. Since they do not have the gift of sight, they focus on their other gifts and develop them. Their hearing is acute, and they can people read by focusing on a person's voice attitude and the words that the person uses.
Those of us whose work depends on the telephone should do the same.
Good Listening Skills
A good listener, both on the telephone and in person, will:
- Always be prepared to take notes when necessary. That means having writing tools readily available.
- Repeat the information he or she heard by saying, I hear you saying ... Is that correct? If the speaker does not agree, repeat the process to ensure understanding.
- Remain curious and ask questions to determine if he or she is accurately understanding the speaker.
- Want to listen to the information being delivered.
- Be physically and mentally present in the moment.
- Listen by using the ears to hear the message, the eyes to read body language (when listening in person), the mind to visualize the person speaking (when on the telephone), and intuition to determine what the speaker is actually saying.
- Establish rapport by following the leader.
- Match the momentum, tone of voice, body language, and words used by the speaker.
- Please use common sense when matching. If the speaker is yelling, don't do the same because it will make a bad situation worse.
Poor Listening Skills
A poor listener, both on the telephone and in person:
- May be abrupt and/or give one-word answers such as no, yes, and maybe.
- Will be easily distracted.
- In person, the listener may look around the room as opposed to focusing on the speaker's face.
- Over the telephone, the listener may be opening mail, reading e-mail, filing, playing with hair, a pencil or a tie — anything that preempts focusing on the caller.
- Constantly interrupts, making the speaker feel that what he or she has to say is not important.
- The listener finishes the other person's sentences, implying that the listener already knows what the speaker is about to say.
- Changes the subject without even realizing it.
- Looks at his watch, signaling that you are wasting his time.
Remember that effective listening can open many doors. If you listen with your eyes, your ears and your mind, you will always get the information you need.