Saturday, April 3, 2010

Listening - The No. 1 People Skill

Listening is probably the No. 1 people skill. People have important things to say to you, but if you don't really understand what they're trying to say, you won't "get it." Which means that you'll be saying and doing things without knowing what's going on. And people may think of you as a lousy listener.

Whether you're interacting in your role as a spouse, parent, manager or friend, breakdowns and barriers to communication will keep you from being successful.

There are lots of videos on effective listening floating around in the YouTube videosphere, but most aren't very good. Then I happened to see this cool 90-second overview...

While it takes a lot of practice to become an effective listener, the concept is simple. There are only five things you need to do...

1. Sense that this is a "listening moment." You have to notice when someone is trying to tell you something. That means it's time to stop talking and start listening.

2. Focus your attention. Don't multi-task. Don't fiddle with objects. Send a clear message with your posture and facial expressions that you're really listening.

3. Listening for the meaning. Not just the words, but why the person is saying the words. THE POINT of what they're saying. It will help to listen for the feelings as well as the words. And be patient. Not everyone is super-organized in conversation.

4. When you think you understand, check it out. In your own words, express what you think they're trying to say. If you discover you didn't get it quite right, ask for clarification.

5. If necessary, ask for more information. Not to solve the problem, but to be sure you heard the whole story.

If you'll focus more on understanding what people are trying to say and less on telling your own stories and making your own points, you'll be amazed how much it will benefit your relationships.

 Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., , Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Sean said...

Most people love to talk about themselves, it's like a starving need to share their views on their favorite topic. If you want to score points with them you just feed this need, and it only takes minimal prompting.

"How's the family?" And you get a half-hour response, just nodding your head, pretending to understand. Just find out whatever is important to a person and let them talk to you about it. They will, and they'll think you're a great conversationalist, even if you've only said six words the whole time!

Ryan said...

Thanks Denny, a helpful video.

I catch myself rehearsing answers at times. It's easy to get caught up in yourself while forgetting to listen. Becoming a better listener has been one of my personal development points of emphasis recently.

Denny Coates said...

Sean, you're absolutely right. Just being quiet and paying attention gets you halfway there! I hope you found some of the other tips useful. Like playing chess, you can never get to the end of improving how you listen.

Denny Coates said...

Ryan, you make an important point. That thinking about what you'll say is as bad as talking, when you should be listening. The human brain can't attend to two things at the same time. While you pondering what to say, you'll be missing a part of what the person is saying.

Kelly Riggs said...

When I saw your Tweet, my first response was "listening skills." So, I cruised over to see if I passed the test!! On the other hand, Denny, after thirty years in the sales profession, I have actually changed my mind. I think the most important people skill is asking effective questions - the right questions.

I always said the most important sales skill was listening, but I soon learned that many salespeople don't know how to ask the right questions! It still means, of course, that you have to be a great listener - but without an insightful question you might be listening to something without real insight.

Many thanks for your great blog!


Dawn Lennon said...

A terrific post! I wish more people would listen for what is meant rather than what is said. We'd avoid so much conflict and build much stronger connections. Glad we're kindred spirits on that point! Well done! ~Dawn