To be an effective communicator you must be sincere in your belief that listening is critical to your success. To practice successful business communication, you must be a good listener; to be a good listener, you have to truly value the viewpoints of others. I would like to share with you some great listening tips from Listening Leaders written by Dr. Lyman Steil and Dr. Richard Bommelje.

Being a great listener will require you to focus all of your attention on what is being said. Premature interpretation, evaluation, or response are common reasons that communication fails. To master effective listening skills, practice the following four steps in sequence:

Step #1 – Practice paying attention to your senses. You must listen to what you see, not what the speaker is saying. What does the body language tell you? Look into his or her eyes, listening to the tone of the voice. Identify the purpose of the communication; listen to what is NOT being said.

Step #2 – Practice interpretation. Your goal during this step is to correctly receive the speaker’s message. The listener’s interpretation of the message must match the speaker’s intention. In order to achieve a complete understanding of the speakers thoughts, the listener needs to probe further with follow-up questions. It is common for a speaker to not word his thoughts properly in the rush to express himself. As a result, it usually takes a series of questions by the listener to give the speaker several opportunities to clarify his or her position.

Step # 3 – Evaluation of the message. It is important NOT to begin to evaluate the message until comprehension and understanding is 100 percent complete. Most listeners err by evaluating and responding to a speaker’s message too quickly. Be patient! Take enough time to probe with questions until you have enough information before evaluating a message.

Step #4 – Response. Communication is incomplete without a response. The speaker will not know that the message has been successfully transferred if you do not verbally confirm this to be true. During the response step, you need to clarify and paraphrase the speaker’s main points. Through your response, you reassure the speaker that you comprehend the speaker’s thoughts, opinions, feelings, and attitudes.

The following are some great tips to improve your listening skills:

Lean forward toward the speaker and make eye contact to focus your listening.

  • Remain open minded. When listening to negative comments, listen more intently to gain an understanding. Search for a learning experience.
  • Ask a lot of questions to gain an understanding of the speakers message.
  • Ask “why” often
  • Eliminate distractions so you can focus on the speaker.
  • Take notes to help you search for learning moments.

Always remember, everyone has something to teach us. As you are listening, search for that value moment. Do not get bogged down in the details but rather listen patiently and search for the central idea of the message. To develop successful business communications, focus on understanding and learning rather than your response.

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