In Part I of this article I described some of the issues surrounding high-level communication and the need to be fully present as an active listener. Now I will share five valuable steps or tips that can elevate your communication to the next level and beyond, by ensuring that you possess C-suite listening skills. I hope you enjoy this article, Part II of “Listen Intently to Boost Your Team Leadership.”
#1) Rapt Attention
Eliminate distractions. Put your cell phone and other gadgets down and away. Look the person in the eye, and don’t let your eyes or attention wander, even in a distraction-rich environment. This will not happen automatically. You must consciously practice. Drill it every time someone speaks to you until it is second nature to lock in your listening.
#2) Resist the Impulse
Assuming what they are about to say can feel like we are helping to speed the conversation along. But never finish people’s sentences. That is a huge faux pas and a major invasion of the other person’s “personal communication space.” Assumptions can be wrong, and speaking over another person is just plain rude.
#3) Retain the Message
While they are speaking, don’t formulate your response. That comes later. Just concentrate on retaining the key points. Yes, it takes practice to activate the memory in this way. But each conversation is another new opportunity to practice. You can even practice active listening while listening to news broadcasts on the radio.
#4) Review the Information
When they stop speaking, run through your bullet list of key points in your head and acknowledge to yourself that you understood. If you hit a gap where you are not sure, ask for clarification before you respond. After you grasp what was said, summarize and review it in your mind. This all happens in an instant – but it is an essential step in good listening.
#5) Ready a Response
Now quiz yourself. What was the speaker’s intention or goal? Have they presented data or support that you need to consider or respond to? Did they express fact or just their biased opinion? What, if any, type of emotion is behind those words they spoke? Is their message emotional or is it rational? Consider as many angles as you can, and then prepare your response accordingly.
Did you notice that none of these five tips jump ahead to the act of speaking. Interesting, huh? Remember, this communication skill is about listening – not responding. You’ll have to suppress that habitual urge to say something.
One trick that helps is to always take one conscious breath after the person you are conversing with finishes their statement or message before you respond. That one breath may seem like an eternity, because our minds are racing ahead to interject. But learning to listen requires intentional practice and greater awareness. Master the skill of being a fantastic listener and it will serve you and your leadership on multiple levels, for the rest of your life.
As a pioneering and visionary innovator, Sarah is a certified image master (CIM) and brand strategist, speaker, trainer and author. Her company, Illustra Consulting, provides leading-edge image and brand management strategies for top leaders and high achievers who wish to take their career to the next level. She also delivers innovative and inspiring corporate workshops to assist large organizations in strengthening their corporate brand.
Copyright © 2015, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIM, CPBS 1-800-267-3245, [email protected]
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