Why Listening Skills?
The most important skill you can develop as an entrepreneur is the ability to listen and understand what your prospects are telling you. There are two forms of listening active and passive. Most people develop lazy passive listening skills which mean they hear the words, don’t process the aural sounds into understanding and follow through with feedback.
Understand the speakers body language ensures you are developing a higher understanding of the situation. Avoid letting the speaker know how you handled a similar situation. Even if the speaker is launching a complaint against you, wait until they finish to defend yourself.
Engage yourself to understand what is being communicated to you
Active listening is about using every sense, processing the words, creating understanding and following through with encouraging feedback.
Encouraging – It is the technique through which the speaker is encouraged to continue talking. The expressions like “I see” are generally used in this activity. The technique of ‘encouraging’ is an effective way to reinforce the speaker’s belief that one is listening to him keenly. It also helps the speaker understand which part of his speech is being appreciated and helps him elaborate on that particular topic.
Paraphrasing – In this process, the words spoken by the speaker are presented by the listener in different words. The benefit of paraphrasing is that the speaker gets positive feedback and ensures that whatever he has spoken is being understood by the listener. This prompts the speaker to proceed further and stops him from repeating the same statement more than once.
Reflecting the Feelings – The activity of reflecting the feelings is similar to paraphrasing. In paraphrasing feedback about the meaning of words is given, while the feelings underlying the words are reflected in this activity; identification and sorting of the speaker’s feelings is carried out in this process. If one is listening to a client, reflecting the feelings helps the speaker understand that one empathizes with his feelings; it encourages the speaker to proceed.
Summarizing – As the name suggests, this activity involves summarizing the sentences of the speaker. It is somewhat similar to paraphrasing except for the fact that summarizing provides a complete and comprehensive feedback.
Ten Tips for Developing Effective Listening Skills
- Understanding the difference between ‘active’ and ‘passive’ listening.
To listen ‘actively’ means to be engaged, involved. You are actively using every sense you have to listen.
To listen ‘passively’ means you hear the words with your ears. You are letting the sound of the words wash over you rather than going forward to meet and greet them. They ‘go in one ear and out the other’ very easily.
- Eliminate outer distractions.
If you are giving someone your full attention then sounds other than those you want to hear can distract. Turn off what you can and consciously block the rest.
- Eliminate inner distractions.
Quell the urge to think about anything other than what you are hearing. If you allow your mind to wander you are letting yourself lapse into ‘passive’ rather ‘active’ listening.
- Pay close attention to the speaker’s body language and in particular the face and hands. Watch for non-verbal cues giving suggestions as to how the spoken information is to be interpreted.
Click for a quick basic guide to body language . If you’re unfamiliar with the notion of ‘reading’ the way a person holds their body, this will serve as a good introduction.
- Listen to the tone of the voice.
What feelings does it evoke? What does it let you know about the speaker’s emotional state beyond the words they are using? Listen too for changes in tone, pitch or pauses within the speech. These can signal subject shifts or transitions. They may also be letting you know what is important and what isn’t.
- Listen to the tone of the words chosen to express the speaker’s ideas. Most of us use differing vocabularies depending on whom we are speaking to and what it is we are saying. What is the speaker’s choice of words saying to you beyond the words themselves?
- Pay close attention to cues heralding note-worthy information or summary statements. Example: ‘There are two things I want you to remember…’, ‘There are three important steps. The first is…’, ‘To sum up…’
- Resist the urge to respond or react.
Let the words communicate with you freely. They are not free if you are already deciding what you’re going to say because you have shifted your focus from the speaker to yourself. A premature outburst either in your mind or outloud can block communication.
- Practice playing-back what ‘you think’ you heard. If it’s appropriate check your understanding. Use your own words to paraphrase and or/summarise what was said. Ask if you heard rightly. Get confirmation or clarification.
- Be aware of cultural-difference.
Body language varies significantly across cultures as does what can and what can’t be talked about. Before leaping to a conclusion reflecting your own interpretation or prejudice, ask.