For a long time the general perception has been that people who master the art of communication are eloquent and have the ability to vocalize their thoughts through persuasive arguments. This understanding is partially true and sometimes it might also be misleading because communication is interaction and as such it needs to include the giving and taking of information.
But what is the key component that differentiates people who are great at communication from good speakers?
When the topic of communication arises, listening is often underestimated but it is in fact the core of good communication. Listening is a skill and it can be mastered by everyone.
“There is a reason why we have two ears and one mouth, it is because there is much more benefit in listening than it is in speaking”
Listening doesn`t occur only in verbal communication, we are able to draw information from non-verbal communication as well. How often has it happened to you that you heard a “Yes” but it sounded more like a No?
When you only focus on the words that are being expressed you are hearing, meanwhile when you get information from the body language, the energy, the intonation, the surrounding you are Listening.
Below you may find some tips to improve you listening skills:
1- Listening is about them, not about you
When you are listening it is normal to fall in the internal listening trap. The internal listening happens when you are hearing your own thoughts about this topic instead of the other person`s. If you find yourself thinking of a similar situation that happened to you or even sharing it, make sure to switch back your attention to the other person and focus on listening and understanding instead of offering your own experience and insights. If you want to dig more and listen deeper ask open questions, the kind of questions that invite for reflection and don`t take a yes/no answer. Some of those questions are:
What else can you tell me about it?
What is important about this topic to you?
What needs to change?
How can you make it better?
2- Non-verbal Communication
Up to 50% of our communication is non-verbal. We communicate even when we don`t speak. Remember the saying: No answer is an answer itself!
Details are the main source of information when it comes to non-verbal communication. Focus on gestures, facial expressions, the breathing pace, accessories being used, body posture. You can get immense insights just by observing. You can understand if someone is having a good or a bad day by the way that person is dressed, or by the face expression: are they smiling genuinely or is it a forced formal smile? Do you perceive truth and authenticity or formal gentleness and rigidity? Based on the information you get from this level of listening you may create an improved interaction by using the approach that is more beneficial to both pairs.
“What do you say?” and “What do you mean?“
When you are listening make sure that your understanding of the topic is right by summarizing what you just heard. When you articulate your understanding you give the other person the opportunity to confirm or correct. When people feel understood the communication shifts into connection and this is a big step forward in creating better relationships and generating solutions even in the most challenging situations.
In these strange times we need connection and understanding more than ever before and the best way to create a positive impact in our relationships and our professional environment is by opening our mind and heart. When we listen deeply we understand better, and when we understand each other better we create more positive and productive relationships that enables us to create great things as a community.