Friday, August 30, 2013

Listening opens the doors to enriched communication

Having a conversation is one of the best ways to connect with others. The person speaking taps into what’s on their mind, turns it into words and phrases, and lets it roll off their tongue – into the air, hovering just outside their lips for someone close by to hear. Sometimes, their words may be projected into a larger space so a group of people can hear. For an even larger audience, a microphone may be used to amplify those words. Once expended, the message is received by the listener.

That’s where things can get messy. Here are some reasons why:
  1. I kind of get it, but I don’t hear too well. I smile my biggest smile, like I totally get it. (Unfortunately, the speaker just told me that his beloved Aunt Edna has died.)
  2. I am listening but also thinking about the lavish Greek salad with grilled shrimp I’m going to eat for lunch so I nod like I’m listening. Half of me is listening; the other half is already out to lunch.
  3. I let their words enter my brain but don't make an effort to fully understand what they are saying. I'm really not interested. (Happens a lot with sales pitches.)
  4. Finally they are finished … now it’s my turn to talk – about something totally unrelated to what they said.

What you really want the listener to think and do is the following: I get it. I am in synchrony with you, the speaker, whose words fall like golden petals onto my receptive ears. I even ask a follow-up question about what was said.

Networking provides a good setting to practice
listening skills. Photo by Liz Cezat.

Which of these methods of listening do you normally use? We are all guilty of using poor listening techniques at one time or another. However, to really get the most out of our relationships – whether they are professional, personal or even a casual conversation with someone we’ve never met before – we need to focus on what’s being said. It’s a direct connection when the speaker gets a response to their message … rather than having you, the listener, simply interject what was lingering in your mind as you semi-listened to what they were saying.

It sounds so simple, yet it is hard to do. You don’t just listen with your ears, you also listen with your heart and your mind.

If you listen with your mind, you often have a ready response because you start focusing on that topic and bring to mind all that you already know about it. You prepare to formulate your comments – often as the speaker is still talking. If you know a lot about the topic, you might even interrupt the speaker with your vast knowledge; so excited are you to share and convince.

If you listen with your heart, you let the speaker’s message enter your being. You absorb it. You process it. Only then can you react to it. If you meld it with some touching experience that you’ve had, then you can begin to empathize with the speaker. That connection can be truly profound and even life changing.

Certain messages need to be listened to with the mind only, the heart only or a combination of the two. It’s a skill – one that you can learn to develop. This skill will broaden your capacity for compassion. It will provide greater understanding of problems that – at initial probing – have no solutions. By cultivating an environment of enriched communication, you and the most important people in your life can reach an extraordinarily fertile field of connectivity. When you reach this level of communication, it can be euphoric.

By being fully receptive to what is being said, you are practicing one of the highest forms of communication. This can be a springboard toward reaching greater goals. Imagine how this can improve just one aspect of your life. The best news is that you don’t have to be born with the gift of being a great communicator. You can learn how to do it.

Check out our seminars on better communication, customized to your workplace or association. Call (734) 416-5915 or send an e-mail inquiry from our “Contact us” page.

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