Effective communication is key to success, and when you’re good at it, people notice. Most people think that strengthening communication skills involves developing persuasive speech and conversational skills. I believe the most powerful communication skills are not in your speaking, they’re in your listening!
Communication is a 2-way process. There is a speaker and a listener. Without an effective listener, none of the conversational skills matter. If you want people to listen to you, you must listen to them first. Demonstrate a willingness to listen and understand and the rest of the communication process will flow with ease.
5 techniques for building your listening skills:
1. Fight the urge to speak. When you’re engaged in a conversation it’s natural to start concentrating on what you’re going to say next. You may even be tempted to open your mouth before the other person is finished. Make the extra effort to keep your lips sealed until he’s through talking. While he’s speaking, don’t worry about what you’re going to say next. Stay present and focus on the words and body language of the other person.
2. Look interested. Your nonverbal communication skills speak volumes! If you’re looking disinterested and uncaring, the person trying to communicate with you will pick up on these subtle hints. She may be flustered or less likely to share her thoughts. Engage with the person talking. Make eye contact and nod your head or smile. Let your conversation partner know that her points are coming across to you.
3. Paraphrase the highlights. Help your conversation partner know she is effectively communicating by restating her points. You can repeat key phrases in an affirming tone. Better yet, give her a quick summary of what she just said in your own words. Avoid sharing your opinions when paraphrasing concepts or ideas! At this point, you simply want to communicate that you’ve completely understood her meaning.
4. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your conversation partner to elaborate on what he’s saying. If you need further information, ask for it. The important thing is that you understand what he’s trying to get across.
5. Be patient. Effective listening skills take time to learn. I find the biggest hurdle to get over is your own discomfort of trying on this new skill. Trust your ability to take this on! And don’t be afraid to let people know you’re learning a new skill. Others will admire your willingness to learn and you’re openness about it.
BONUS: 5 Door-openers for paraphrasing your conversation partner
“If I’m hearing you accurately, you’re concerned about…..”
“Help me understand if I getting this, you want……”
“So what I’m hearing is…….”
“I want to make sure I’m understanding. What you’re saying is……”
“For clarity, what you’re talking about is……”
These door-openers may feel awkward at first, but give yourself permission to step into the discomfort. As you practice and learn to master effective listening, I guarantee your effectiveness as a leader will improve!
Laura Watson, ACC, MSW is President of Venture Coaching Inc., and was a finalist for the Canadian Coach of the Year Award. Venture Coaching provides Business Coaching, and Life and Leadership coaching to entrepreneurs so they can love their life and business! Venture Coaching provides the tools, process and support to accelerate your personal and business growth.