People often focus on their speaking ability believing that good speaking equals good communication. The ability to speak well is a necessary component to successful communication. The ability to listen is equally as important.
The importance of listening in communication is often well illustrated when we analyze our listening skills with those closest to us. In particular I am referring to our spouse, partner, children or friends. Pay attention to the everyday conversations we have with these people with whom we think we communicate well.
Do you ever find yourself mindlessly saying "uh huh" when one of these folks is trying to tell you something only to have say just after "I'm sorry what did you say?" Have you been in a conversation with one of them and you are not really listening completely to what they have to say because you are too busy formulating your response?
This is actually quite common and yet we think we are good communicators. In order to communicate effectively we have to be able to hear what the other person is saying. Not just hear because the acoustics are good or because the other person is speaking in a loud enough tone. It is important that we hear what the person is saying because we have taken the time to actively listen.
Listening takes work and when it comes to improving our communication there is no getting around that. When we are listening to music or watching T.V. we can certainly let our minds wander. If we want our communication skills to get stronger it is important that we not day dream in a conversation but instead concentrate fully on what the other person is saying.
No doubt this can be difficult. Not every conversation we are in is particularly interesting. If however, we want to improve these skills focus is important even when dealing with younger children and teenagers.
Allowing the person to completely finish their thought before you begin to form a response is also crucial to good listening. To take it even one step further wait a moment before you begin to reply. This gives the other person a chance to add anything else they may have thought of. By waiting an additional moment before you reply you also let the other person know they have been heard completely. If you practice this for a time people will relax when conversing with you because they will know that they don't have to rush to get their two cents in. They will appreciate the fact that they can communicate with you and be heard.
When having those important conversations with the people closest to you, try taking it one step further and repeating back what they said "what I heard you say is you are uncomfortable..." By doing this you give the other person the opportunity to correct any misconceptions that may have occurred or to clarify any points they were trying to make. This heightens the level of communication you are enjoying. And the person you are communicating with will certainly feel respected and important given the care you are taking with the conversation.
The technique of repeating back for clarity had been extremely useful when I have had conversations with my teenagers. It also comes in handy when speaking with a spouse or partner. Often times in those situations we begin to assume we know what the other person means. Allowing them to express themselves completely actually allows for greater intimacy, something we often desire in our relationships but wonder why we are not achieving.
The importance of listening in communication is something worthwhile to consider. Good listeners are often some of the best speakers because they have taken the time to find out what people are truly interested in. If you understand what is important to people than you understand how to reach them.
The strategies I spoke about are just as effective in the workplace especially in sales. If you are really listening to what your customerwants it will be that much easier to fulfill their needs. The customer will be impressed that you listened to what they were communicating instead of just going into sales mode. I have personally found in sales that the more I listened and the less I talked the better my sales ratio was and the more satisfied my clients were. That is a win-win situation for all involved.
Maureen Staiano is a Life Coach specializing in working with women and the unique challenges, opportunities and transitions we face in our lives. Please visit me: http://www.achieveyourdreamcoaching.com
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