Have you ever wondered why something you have said perfectly innocently to someone else has been misinterpreted and you were given a reaction you weren’t expecting?
Why is that, you may ask. Well, that's because of the communication model. Basically, when a message leaves my mouth, it is not the message that hits your ears. That's because when it leaves my mouth, it is encoded with my values, beliefs and perceptions. Before it hits your ears, it is decoded with your values, beliefs and perceptions. Therefore, we need to be very, very careful when communicating and understand that the person that’s receiving the communication may not necessarily hear it in the way that it was intended.
So let's start by looking at how to listen effectively.
Listening is actively focusing on what messages you are receiving, both verbally and non verbally. Being a great listener is essential to being a great communicator. The skill of listening underlies everything we do. Being a good listener requires a lot of focus and attention. You will need to be completely focused, open and prepared to hear whatever the other person may have to say.
When you give someone else your full attention, it takes effort and is a skill. When someone knows that you’re really listening to them they feel acknowledged and valued. And when we fail to acknowledge someone who is speaking to us, they lose interest and we lose their trust. So listen to people in a way that has them know they are being heard. How we do that? Well, we do that by acknowledging them, nodding our heads, making noises, such as “hmmm” or “aha”.
Next, you need to listen with empathy. The right amount of empathy is to know exactly what the other person is feeling, but not dwelling in that feeling yourself. Listening without interfering is really about listening without interrupting. By letting the other person finish what they have to say before you speak.
When we listen generously, we switch off our internal dialogue and we focus on what the other person is saying. Did you know that a guesstimate is maybe 20% to 50% of the time we don't actually hear what people mean? Especially looking at what they precisely mean? No wonder people often feel like they are misunderstood and not heard. As you listen, confirm that you've heard what the other person was actually meaning to say and what they intended you to actually hear.
Listen without making judgments. We misinterpret what people say when we filter information based on our own beliefs and perceptions. If we only listen from within our own experience, we make our assumptions about the situation. A way to know that you're on track with listening is to repeat phrases back to the other person. There are two key ways to do this, mirroring and paraphrasing. By emphasizing a key phrase and highlighting something they may have said, you encourage them to listen more deeply, also to themselves. Listen at all levels, both physically, verbally, and emotionally. Listen to the words, listen for the language, and listen for the emotion. Ask yourself, what is this person really trying to say? What is actually not being said? And, what's the emotion behind the words? Once emotion gets involved, communication quickly breaks down.
Listening for body language. Body language gives away a lot about what people are thinking. Be conscious of the way people sit up, hold themselves, and look at you. You can hear people’s body language even on the telephone, when their breathing patterns change or when they are moving around uncomfortably, like squirming in their seat. You can often hear whether they are hunched over or confidently sitting up straight.
Make sure you listen without judgment. It's easy to react and go into an emotional spin and into the drama of a situation. Watch out for getting charged up about a conversation you're having. Then, you will no be longer listening to the other person and you'll be thinking about your emotions and what you're going to say next.
Good listeners put aside what they feel and return completely to the conversation. Be aware of your own judgments and be willing to put them aside during listening. The best way to listen is without judgment.
We all have some kind of agenda when we listen to others, mostly one we are not aware of. In life, we often have agendas like – I want to appear smart, or be liked, or to win them over, or indeed close a deal. In order to listen powerfully, notice your agenda and put it aside. Listen as someone totally committed to the conversation. That’s the key to great listening.
This is an exert from The Art of Recruitment