Are You an Effective Communicator?
by Shelly Aristizabal
What’s more frustrating than speaking without being heard? We’ve all been there before, confiding in a friend as she fondles her cell phone, pitching an idea to a co-worker as he interrupts with his own idea, telling your spouse about your day as his eyes glaze over.... apparently focusing on something much more important than you.
There is a difference between hearing and listening - listening is hard work, and it takes a great deal of concentration. No wonder our friends and family and co-workers can be lousy at it. But what about you -- are you a good listener?
You may be that colleague or spouse or friend who never really listens and not even know it! See if you have any of these poor listening habits below, or better yet, thicken your skin and ask a friend.
Sending one little text as your co-worker is talking sends an enormous message to her: You're not listening. And that hurts. Yes, perhaps you're hearing the other person, or you think you're getting the gist -- you're a multitasker after all! -- but are you really concentrating on what she said? Probably not. Focusing on a text message, or your email, or that dog over there or the shopping list you need to make is telling the speaker that those things are more important than what she is saying!
This bad habit is three things: Self explanatory, rude and a sign that you're not listening.
Topping the speaker's story.
Imagine you're excitedly telling a friend about a Washington, D.C., vacation you're planning, when he decides to cut in: "I lived there for three years and have toured the White House a couple dozen times, and really prefer the National Mall, though all the tourists typically opt for the Lincoln Memorial, which... blah, blah, blah" There's certainly nothing wrong with engaging in a conversation, but cutting into the speaker's story to talk about yourself is a sign you weren't digesting his or her message.
Someone with this habit thinks, "I'm listening, but only enough to find a problem and fix it for you!" Sometimes this person is so skilled in the habit that he or she will find problems that aren't even there. "Oh, the trip to Washington is this month? Why would you go there in that awful summer heat? And don't even think about cooling down in the air-conditioned museums, they're too crowded."
If you're the topic of discussion, you might hear criticism that may or may not be there. And so we get defensive. When we're defending, we're not listening.
Think about the last meeting, conversation or encounter you had. Did you display any of the above habits? Whether or not you did, know that everyone can improve his or her listening skills. And that's exactly what listening is: an important skill used in marriage, friendship, parenthood, management and just about every kind of relationship. Without listening skills, we're poor communicators. Think about the last miscommunication you had, or the last time something didn't go your way, and now think: How much of that had to do with not fully listening?
Here's how to practice becoming a better listener:
Break those habits.
Now that you're aware of poor listening habits, identify when you do them -- and stop. Even if you're mid-sentence, catch yourself. 'Here I go again, giving advice.’ or 'Here I go again, telling my story instead of listening to yours.' If you're really motivated to become a better listener, ask your friends to call you out when you're doing these habits.
Squarely face the speaker; Open up your posture by uncrossing your arms; Lean in; Make Eye contact; Relax.
Just like how good waiters repeat your order back to you, good listeners restate what they're hearing. While this repetition isn't necessary or efficient for every interaction ("I'm hearing that you think it's sunny out"), it's a useful tool for conversations in which messages could be mixed: "I'm hearing that you're upset I didn't go to your party," or "I'm hearing profits are up 4 percent, and you seem hopeful they'll continue rising."
Realize when you're not listening and fix it.
No one is a perfect listener. If you find your attention has drifted and you weren't actively listening, be honest with whoever is talking. Communicate that yes, you're interested, but that you got a bit off track, so please repeat that last part.
Remember, there is a very good reason we have two ears and one mouth, we should listen twice as much as we talk to be an effective communicator!
Community Commerce Leader, Author, Speaker, Nutrition & Fitness Coach
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