We hear a lot about the need to improve our communication skills. Based on what you think you have said and what the person you said it to hears is often different. Speaking the same language doesn’t ensure the same meaning. The difference may be subtle, but the follow up behaviors or actions or emotions that were ignited could be anywhere from incorrect to disastrous. Many misunderstandings in business and personal relationships result in damage to those relationships or wrong actions taken affecting business. They could be avoided if we all committed to becoming better listeners by embracing the notion that our way is not always the best or only way.
Here are some tips on how to become a better listener:
• Get rid of the idea that you have to be right. If you have an investment in being right, you have already closed down your ability to hear. Besides if you are always right that means the other person is always wrong. Does that really compute?
• Listen with an open mind. There are a lot of other ideas and perspectives out there. Many of them are good and some may be better than yours.
• Repeat back what you have heard to make sure you have clearly understood what was said.
• Forget about preparing your response. Respond after you listened well. There is nothing wrong with taking your time.
• Express your own point of view and feelings honestly and with respect for the listener. These skills take discipline and practice. Change your mind set from win-lose to win-win. Think in terms of shared goals, mutual respect teamwork, accommodation and compromise.
• Suspend the habit of judging what is being said. Just listen. Quiet your mind and focus on hearing what is being said without thinking about your next comeback.
• Actively participate by giving positive feedback. State your understanding of what you are hearing, and ask questions when things are not clear.
• Be open to options. Get rid of the idea that you must know everything and always be right. Remember that there is always more than one way to do things. Find ways to synthesize your perspective with those of others.
• Conduct brainstorming sessions in which all ideas are received without criticism, no matter how absurd they initially sound. Get feedback from everyone on the various options before one is chosen.
• Keep the goal of the meeting in mind and do not get sidetracked by ego trips, turf issues or personalities.
• Handle disagreements graciously, without being critical of anyone.
• Keep meeting discussions confidential. Do not gossip later about who said what to whom.
• Endorse the final plan, even if it was not your idea that was adopted.
• Follow through with commitments in a timely manner.
How do you rate? Will you commit to improving how you listen? I will respond to your comments, which I welcome.