“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Greek philosopher Epictetus
The master skill and the foundation of all interpersonal relations is the skill of effective communication. We are always communicating with the people around us, not only verbally but also with our body language. If we want to be successful in connecting with people and improve our influence with them, effective communication is the master key.
Most people understand this thing but a very few are able to master it, and the most common reason is that they are not good listeners. It has been commonly observed that people are not aware of the importance of effective listening. They listen to respond rather than to understand, and if one doesn’t understand the other person, how well will he be able to connect with him. Just reflect back on your own life, you have been trained to speak, read, handle objections and many other skills but have you ever received any training that improves your listening skills?
Most people even when they make an attempt to listen, they listen to only the words with attention. But as we all know that if we want to understand the situation and the person right, we not only need to listen to the words said but also what has been left unsaid. You need to give proper attention to the body language and the emotions behind those words. You need to develop advanced concepts like reflective and empathic listening. This will require a lot of practice and patience. We summarize here some of the suggestions that may come handy:
1. Communication has to be two way
Realize that effective communication is not about you dominating the discussion, but when all parties get their due share of time and opportunity. Rather it will be beneficial, if you let the other people talk before you, as that will give you more insights into the other person’s views. I have seen many bosses who love their voice a bit too much and have a bad habit of indulging into monologue. These are the same people who later complain that the staff is mostly indifferent and there are no new ideas. Prefer to have a constructive dialogue always for bonding with your people. In the words of Simon Sinek, “A leader is the one who speaks last and acts first.”
2. Don’t just focus on listening the words
Albert Mehrabian in his book Silent Messages published a study which said that 55% of the messages are conveyed through body language, 38% through the tone of the voice and only 7% through the words. Now this study has been challenged a lot, but still it is very evident that a majority of our communication is non verbal. If you want to have a effective listening experience then develop the habit to pay close attention to the speaker’s body language and attitude. You will be able to read much between the lines.
3. Don’t judge others
Steven Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says that many of us are in the habit of listening others while reading from our autobiography, that is we see the things from our own perspective. Due to this we have a tendency of judging people based on our own expectations and experiences. It is said that we don’t see the world as it is, but as we are. For being able to connect with other people you need to see their world, be non judgmental while listening to them and try to understand their views.
4. Be in the current moment
It is a known fact that our mind is faster than our speech. Most ineffective people are impatient and they start to think ahead about their reply even while the other person is still speaking. This causes problems that our attention is shifted from the other’s speech to our own thoughts and perceptions. We are simply unable to grasp the point that the speaker is trying to convey. Practice the habit of remaining in the present moment and be attentive.
5. Ask questions to gain clarity
If in a conversation you are unable to understand something or have a question, it is always better to ask it then and there, rather than moving on to the next topic and not getting to know the concerns of the speaker. Most people will be more than happy to repeat what they said and with greater clarity to ensure that you understand the actual meaning behind their words. When you ask questions it gives the speaker confidence that you are interested and are listening to him with full attention.
6. Be sensitive to the emotions
Just visualize and understand the difference in the meaning of the same answer (‘I am fine’) when someone asks the same question (‘How are you’) in two entirely different situations. One where someone who has just escaped unhurt from an accident and the other one is a depressed person who has just faced another setback or rejection. I am fine, coming from the person who escaped the accident moments ago carries with it the emotion of gratitude whereas the same answer coming from a depressed person carries with it the feeling of helplessness and despondency.
For effective listening you have to understand the emotions behind the words. Try to assess the mental state the speaker is in and you will be able to get to the core of their thoughts and perceptions. This is called listening with empathy. Once you listen in this way, it gives confidence to the speaker and they open up more in front of you and connect more deeply. It leads to the development of bonding and strengthening of relations.
In the end realize that our speech gives us expression and our listening gives us understanding. Listen well and make your communication skills more effective. Tupac Shakur was right when he said:
“If you let a person talk long enough you’ll hear their true intentions. Listen twice, speak once.”
Related article: 5 Keys for Effective Communication