In this busy world, the fine art of listening seems to be one of those skills that needs refreshing. We tend to be more interested in expediency than we are in connection. So much is done through electronic media, email, texts and the like, I fear that even in face-to-face interactions, we are not attending to the other person in order to truly understand him or her. Can we do better?

Ask yourself these questions.
Do you:

• Anticipate what someone is going to say so you can prepare your response?
• Judge the merit of what someone is saying before that person has finished?
• Discount what is said if you don’t agree or let your biases affect your willingness to listen?
• Neglect nonverbal cues? (Remember, only 7 percent of a message is in the words; the majority of content is found in body language and tone)
• Interrupt people to speed up the conversation or to insert your opinion?
• Stop listening if the person is long-winded (short story long)?

Here are some tips that have helped me:

• Resist interruptions. If appropriate, take notes throughout the conversation in order to formulate questions after the person has finished. Jot down key words from what the other person is saying to keep yourself focused on that content. Trust me, you’ll be able to figure out your responses based on these key words, so you don’t have to plan your response rather than take the time to listen. This might take some practice.
• Rephrase for understanding. Use phrases such as “let me see if I understood you properly” and positively restate what was said. This is particularly effective if you are in the midst of a disagreement. People often don’t say exactly what they mean. Your rephrasing it enables them to hear it as you perceive it and alter the message if they want to.
• Make appropriate eye contact, and acknowledge that you are listening by nodding, smiling, etc.
• Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Letting people share what they know is a gift!

The best communicators are not the best talkers – they are the best listeners. There is real power in learning how to really listen – and it shows your clients, customers, friends and family that you care about what is important to them.

About Your Columnist

Brenda Grow is a featured columnist for Women Lead, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence, where she covers corporate communications. As an independent consultant specializing in commercial insurance, leadership and communication training, she has a B.A. from CSULB and a master’s in psychology from Pepperdine University. Brenda has over 30 years of experience at a regional independent insurance agency where she held several positions, including an executive leadership role.

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