In my last post, I discussed the benefits of learning to listen. Here, I will share easy, actionable steps to help develop your listening skills. While going through the steps below, please remember, listening more and talking less are two sides of the same communication coin.
- Start your discussion by praising the other person who has just finished talking, even if you disagree with him or her. Normally we do not disagree with all the points of the other person, but we tend to ignore the points of agreement. Starting with praise will help you listen to the other person completely, and you will be compelled to try to find points where you agree rather than disagree.
- Remember that more talkative people spill more information, and that can be used against them. As talkative people listen less, their questions also often go unanswered. When you are aware that you may be providing unnecessary information to others, you'll make an effort to speak about only what is necessary.
- Better listeners get more information from others, which they can use to fine-tune their point of view and present it more effectively. When you're eager to improve your thoughts, you listen more carefully, because that helps you strategize. Listening will make you a better negotiator.
- Write down points of agreement and disagreement. When you write down the points, you have little option but to listen.
- If you do not get the opportunity to talk, the sky will not fall. Moreover, it is of little use talking in a forum that does not give all participants an opportunity to present their point of view. Most of the time, when someone says, "Listen to me," the opposite happens.
- Don't try to win the speaking contest. Instead, focus on winning the hearts of the people by understanding them. Many times, more talkative people appear to win the battle, but they lose the war. More talkative people do not converse, but instead force their viewpoint on others. This creates a negative perception of such a person that sustains beyond the conversation and impacts the overall relationship.
- Establish simple, fair rules. In a group, ground rules help create an environment of listening. For example, solicit opinions one at a time, give everyone two minutes to put up their points in round-robin fashion, or ask that everyone reiterate the previous speaker's point of view before making his or her own.
- Take an example from the deaf. I will leave you with a thought from A Comma in a Sentence by Indian businessman and author R. Gopalakrishnan, in which he gains a valuable perspective from hearing-impaired teacher Bruno Kahne. The book paraphrases Mr. Kahne: "Deaf people look at the speaker in the eye and make sure they are fully present in the interaction. They absorb more and retain more. In many management situations...there are simultaneous and multiple conversations. That will never happen with deaf people. They follow a strict protocol of one person speaking at a time. Consensus and agreement are reached faster than out of a heated and overlapping conversation. In the long term, slower is faster. Deaf people are direct and they communicate with their thoughts and feelings.... They are economical about the way they communicate. For the same reason, they listen well, too."
What is your top tip for becoming a good listener?
Read PMI's The Essential Role of Communications to learn more about effective communication.