Improving Listening Skills: The First Step in Better Communication

20140722-Listening-SkillsI work with a lot of people and companies on improving their communication skills.

Whether a company or individual hires me because there is a serious problem or they recognize that poor or ineffective business communication skills are hindering them in some way, the root cause is always the same: They don’t listen, but they always think they are. If I asked 100 people, “Do you think you listen to other people?” the answer would be a resounding YES! Of course, they would also tell me that other people don’t listen to them — which of course is what they see as the problem. “If only those dimwits would listen to me, we wouldn’t have these problems.”

To improve our communication skills we must first start with improving our listening skills.

Every one of us believes, truly believes, that we listen to other people. I’m here to argue this point. We don’t listen — we hear. Our ears hear what someone is saying but we aren’t really listening. We miss tone, inflection, the specific words they use, their values, beliefs, the nuances and what’s under the words. We attach judgments to what they are saying or how they are saying it, and don’t listen. At times we are even thinking about the upcoming meeting, the report we have to finish, the fight we had this morning with our kids or any number of other things. If any of these facts exist we can’t be listening, even if we hear the words.

There’s no doubt about it improving listening skills is the first step toward improving communication.

Even more than that, improving your listening skills will build trust because when others feel understood it makes them feel special, important and that you genuinely care about them. Those feelings equate to having them feel they can trust you. There is no greater need for human beings than to feel heard and understood. Improving your listening skills will also eliminate misunderstandings, improves productivity, reduces redos, increases the likelihood that the results will be what you want and, and, and … all leading to happier relationships and more fun. And who doesn’t want that?

This week I challenge you to work on improving listening skills and really consider if you are listening to other people of simply hearing their words.

How often do you find your mind wandering to another topic? Are you getting the results you want and if not did you miss a clue because of passive listening? Listening is a skill that takes practice. See what happens this week when you listen to others, rather than just hear them.

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