Listening…we all do it, right? We do so much of it that you would think we would be great at it! However some statistics state we only remember 25-50% of what we hear. Think about that: for every ten minute conversation you have, the receiver only listens half that time and vice versa! Imagine how missing information impacts relationships of all kinds.
However, there is listening and active listening. Active listening is an important part of interpersonal communication. To listen actively, we must make a conscious effort to listen not just to the words but the complete message. Consciously paying attention and ignoring distractions allows us to glean maximum information. It is also important to check yourself if you find yourself bored–stay focused (“Noise”)! Acknowledgment can be very simple: a nod or an “uh huh” will convey engagement. Questions and paraphrasing what you heard are excellent ways to stay present and actively listen. A useful way of framing questions is: “So, what I heard you say….?” This is an excellent way to check understanding and show the speaker that you are truly interested in the conversation. This technique can be used if we find ourselves taking something personally. Often, the speaker does not intend to insult us. Asking is always a good idea!
An important part of active listening is waiting to judge or respond immediately. This generally manifests as interruptions. I imagine you can think of times you were interrupted, so frustrating. Learning to wait to respond until the speaker is finished will smooth your communication. It is also fine to ask the speaker if they are finished. Clarity is key! Another component of active listening is responding appropriately. Even if you disagree with the speaker, there is nothing gained by attacking him/her. Asserting your opinion in a respectful way and treating the other the way you want to be treated is essential. Be open, honest, and candid when responding.
Learning to communicate well AND listen well is invaluable to satisfying and accurate communication. It is quite possible that these skills will give an advantage in business exchanges; remember, most people only hear 25-50% of what they hear. Imagine how you might use the additional information!