Has this ever happened to you? You had an initial meeting with someone and you asked that person what seemed to be all the right questions. You had what felt to you like a good conversation, and based on that conversation, you scheduled a follow-up meeting. You sat down at your computer to follow through on next steps and ... you remembered nothing.
There are a lot of possible reasons for that outcome, but today, consider this possibility: You weren’t listening actively.
If that’s the case, you might have missed important elements of what the other person really wanted to say. As a result, your follow-up might be missing essential components.
What’s tricky about this is that you may have thought you were listening, and you might even have written down interesting, accurate notes reflecting what the other person said during your meeting. But listening actively is not the same as waiting patiently for your turn to speak!
Here’s a process that will help you to listen actively during your next discussion with an employee, co-worker, boss or friend.
Step One: Recognize the real goal of all your communication. When we communicate, we have an innate need to be understood and acknowledged. That means Step One is letting the other person know that s/he has been heard and understood! If you skip this step, your meeting is likely to go off track, no matter how good your ideas are.
Step Two: Send subtle messages that say, “I hear you, I’m paying attention,” as the other person speaks. When you are engaged in a conversation, how do you let the other party know that you are listening and understand what he or she is saying? You can acknowledge the person speaking and signify your understanding by simply nodding your head or saying something like, “I see,” “OK,” or “that makes sense,” each time he makes a point. This sounds like a basic, common-sense step, but it’s something most people haven’t mastered.
Step Three: Before making points of your own, restate key content to prove you were really listening and really do understand what was said. Active listening is the process of reflecting back to the speaker the message you heard in order to confirm or correct your understanding. That is accomplished by summarizing the speaker’s message and asking for confirmation or if needed, clarification. Active listening not only facilitates effective communication, but it also enhances rapport.
If you follow these three simple steps – understand the true goal of your communication, send the right subtle “I’m listening” signals as the other person is speaking, and restate key content to prove you really were listening – you’ll have better conversations, gather high-quality information, and make better recommendations. Last but certainly not least, you’ll improve your closing ratio!
I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts in the comment section below on what keeps you from listening or what tips you have for staying active in the conversation.
Additional Resource: Five Secrets for Personal and Professional Growth