Want to be a Better Communicator? Learn how to Listen.
It’s often said that we have two ears but only one mouth. So, we should listen twice as much as we speak.
Miscommunication, conflict, assumptions, errors, mistakes, ineffective decisions and a loss of team cohesion: What do all of these organizational issues have in common? All are the result, at least in part, of poor listening.
Listening is a highly valued skill in the workplace, so is it possible that it’s not your foreign accent, but the listener’s ability to listen that causes the miscommunication? Very possibly! According to a study at the University of Minnesota, the average person remembers only 50% of what they heard just a few minutes after listening to a short talk. In fact, we tend to forget one-half to one-third of what we learned within 8 hours. Surprised?
Formal education focuses on reading instruction, little emphasis is placed on speaking and almost no time is spent on the skill of listening. Listening is critical when you're learning on the job, which is another skill that employers desire. Listening also comes into play in collaboration, problem-solving and teamwork -- more skills and qualities that rank near the top with employers.
The average adult spends about 70% of the day in some form of communication; 9% writing, 16% reading, 30% speaking and 45% listening. If you want to improve your interpersonal communication skills, focus on being a better listener.
Here are a few tips to try today.
1. Listen for Content: Focus on the main idea being presented. Listen for facts and ideas, as well as specific words people choose.
Related video: The Psychological Effect that Stops Smart People from Listening to Good Advice.
2. Listen to the Intent: Thirty-eight percent (38%) of the meaning of a message comes from tone of voice, inflection, pauses and other vocalizations. Practice using your intuition to hear the underlying messages. If you know the speaker, this will be easier, but you can become more aware by actively listening for the clues of how a message is presented.
Start today. Try to listen for 5 minutes without interrupting. Remember communication is a two-way street.
To be continued...