Three Easy Steps to Disciplined Listening

July 2, 2012

Dale Carnegie’s Human Relations principle #7 says to, “Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.” A business runs on information and there is no better way to learn what’s going on than to follow this principle. How we listen says volumes about our thoughts.

If you struggle with listening attentively, you are not alone. A recent Harvard Business Review blog post by Ram Charan states that even people who have risen to the ranks of corporate America struggle with listening. Charan’s knowledge of corporate leaders’ 360-degree feedback indicates that one out of four of them has a listening deficit.

Despite today’s fast-paced business environment, no matter how swamped you may be in your current role, you can still become a master of disciplined listening by following these three easy steps:

Take note. Listen for key points and write down the nuggets of information. If you have a question about something the person just said, let him or her finish speaking. Instead of interrupting, write the statement down with a question mark so you remember to return to that point. It’s critical not to interrupt because often times the person speaking will end up giving us the answer to the question before we have to interject.

Believe it or not, your voice inflection, facial expressions and body language are great ways to show that you are listening actively. Many people do not realize that we communicate with much more than words, rather with our nonverbal communication, or body language, which includes our facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture, and even our voice inflection. To show that you are listening attentively, lean in to show that you are interested in what the person is saying or nod your head in

Clarify and confirm. The next step is to show that we have in fact listened by probing and clarifying.  This is the time to ask the questions which arose when initially hearing the person speak. For example, did you hear the statistic correctly? When in doubt, ask.

Not only does this step ensure that you have your facts straight, it also assures the other person that they were in fact understood. This can be very gratifying; especially to people who are very short on time and kind enough to talk to us. Listening, and showing that we have actually listened, is a great way to build and strengthen relationships.

Take it easy. Today’s always on modus operandi has resulted in the loss of our ability to listen attentively and effectively. We GO, GO, GO and are ready to take action, so it feels odd to slow down and listen. For some, it feels passive and inefficient to sit back and listen. It is, however, a necessary step to prevent us from reacting too quickly or acting without the information we need to make sound decisions and judgments.

Photo Credit: Ky Olsen

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