Monday, October 30, 2006

Practical Tips for Effective Listening

While I was going thru all those write ups about Listening and after doing so many training programs on the same subject matter, thought I can add some value to all our readers with this piece of article.

The premise with which I am starting this is “WE LISTEN AT FAR GREATER PACE THAN WE CAN SPEAK”, so with the mind ready to accept so many things why not make full use of it.

It becomes really difficult to listen to someone else as our mind is so fast in thinking and acting according to it, at times this positive feeling can become pit fall for our listening, where we tend to form opinions without fully understanding the concepts and context.

Hence I would suggest the following simple technique for effective listening

a. Sense Data: Before forming an opinion understand why something is been told to you and what is the real meaning behind the conversation, this will help to form a neutral opinion.
b. Interpret Statement: Once something is been said, try and analyze the talk for yourself as to why was it told to you in first place.
c. Feeling Statement: This is the difficult part but once mastered will real value add to individuals in their endeavor to be successful. Understanding the feeling of the person who is talking to us.

a. Body language: Once the initial step of sensing the meaning of the data, it is imperative to respond to the individual who is talking to you, the acknowledgement can be in the form of positive body language and gestures, this can be a simple nod of the head either in acceptance or refusal of what is being said, a smile on the face (only in case if the talk is a pleasant one)
b. Express: It is the general human tendency to express once feeling about the talk to the person who communicated, so please do express your opinion or feeling to the individual; this will show that you are sensitive to what is being said.

a. Ask questions: For better understanding of the talk it is always advisable to ask question and clarify your view point with the speaker, this will also reduce the ambiguity in understanding and at the same time will give better picture of the course of action.
b. Prompt if need be: At times if the speaker is not all that comfortable in talking, we will have to prompt by giving cues, this will increase his/her confidence and the information sharing will be easy (typically the interviewee will be like this)

a. Listen & repeat what is said: What is said will have to be understood, for the clarity of understanding, paraphrase what is being spoken to you, once the speaker completes his/her talk, this will add credibility and also will let you know what is that you are thinking of the person

Once we follow these simple yet powerful steps I am sure it will increase our listening ability and help us enormously as a professional.

In my experience thus far, I have noticed that people who are facing the front line customers and in the service functions often will have lot of things to do and listen from their clients (internal as well as external) but they struggle to come to terms with what is being said to them as they tend to forget one simple thing, I have noticed and interacted with best sales persons and service guys in the industry and most of them have this habit of carrying a book and pen when ever they are talking to people, this will help in remembering what we talk and accept

Taking notes is one of the best ways in which we can maximize our listening ability, and here is how we can do it.

Good Listeners Take Notes!

Good Notes
- Focus on what is important
- Exclude all trivia and irrelevancies
- Lend tangibility to what is said
- Gaps in the subject become apparent
- Aids in raising pertinent questions

- Note only important ideas
- Use private code to enable writing quickly

Lastly I would like to share this story of POWER OF EFFECTIVE LISTENING

Swami Vivekananda when he was a small kid of 9 years was a mischievous boy (who will not at that age), he was some one who was not interested in his studies, his parents were really worried about his lack of interest in studies, all efforts from his parents went in vain as they struggled to make him study, as the exams fast approached, Swami decided a way out to escape his parents scolding for not studying, he told them that he would go to his friends place for combined studies, his parents were happy as at least he is aware that he has to study, the real reason of his escape was, he could sleep at his friend’s place when others studied and his parents will not come to know it.

As this sleeping at friend’s place continued till exams started and all his friends were like this guy will not pass as he has not read anything and were laughing in their minds, but when the exams were over and the results were announced, to all their surprise, Vivekananda had scored more marks than all those friends of his who studied together when he slept,

They questioned him on the result and Swami had this to say “you know when guys were reading loud, I was just listening to you all and remembered them” this just goes to show the importance of listening and power of effective listening



Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Art of Listening

Listening is an art that when done well delivers tremendous benefits. The goal of listening well is to achieve win-win communication.

Win-win communication not only fosters understanding, affirmation, validation and appreciation, but it also creates an atmosphere of trust, honor and respect. When someone truly listens to you, don't you feel special?

Listening well is a two-way street, and to be effective communicators, we must all listen well to each other. One-way listening can be equated to driving down a one-way street the wrong way. It's dangerous, it can get you into trouble and it can be expensive, as illustrated in the following example.

Sam, a dispatcher for a national moving company in Philadelphia, gave Mike, a new driver, an assignment to go to Portsmouth to make household goods delivery.

When Mike arrived in Portsmouth, he called Sam for further instructions. As Sam gave Mike the necessary information, Mike got a strange feeling that something wasn't quite right.

Mike asked Sam for the complete address, which was Maple Street in Portsmouth, Virginia. Well, Mike was in Portsmouth, but it was Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Mike was ten hours away from where he was supposed to be. He had traveled north in the wrong direction.

Not only did this cost the company time and money, but also the owner of the goods was not pleased.

What caused this expensive mistake? Ineffective listening by both parties. In his haste, Mike didn't listen to all the information that Sam gave him, and Sam neglected to get accurate acknowledgment from Mike stating that he understood the instructions.

Focus on the Caller

Listening well is a skill that requires practice.

1. Someone who listens well easily establishes rapport with others.
2. Good listeners attract others because they focus on the speaker completely.
3. They have a positive energy that makes you want to be in their company.
4. They are effective in their jobs because, by listening and asking the appropriate questions, they know exactly what needs to be done and how to do it.

To be effective when interacting over the telephone, hone your verbal skills and focus completely on what the speaker is saying.

Listen closely to your intuition. The best example of this is to observe how blind people communicate. Since they do not have the gift of sight, they focus on their other gifts and develop them. Their hearing is acute, and they can people read by focusing on a person's voice attitude and the words that the person uses.

Those of us whose work depends on the telephone should do the same.

Good Listening Skills

A good listener, both on the telephone and in person, will:

1. Always be prepared to take notes when necessary. That means having writing tools readily available.
2. Repeat the information he or she heard by saying, I hear you saying ... Is that correct? If the speaker does not agree, repeat the process to ensure understanding.
3. Remain curious and ask questions to determine if he or she accurately understands the speaker.
4. Want to listen to the information being delivered.
5. Be physically and mentally present in the moment.
6. Listen by using the ears to hear the message, the eyes to read body language (when listening in person), the mind to visualize the person speaking (when on the telephone), and intuition to determine what the speaker is actually saying.
7. Establish rapport by following the leader.
8. Match the momentum, tone of voice, body language, and words used by the speaker.
9. Please use common sense when matching. If the speaker is yelling, don't do the same because it will make a bad situation worse.

Poor Listening Skills

A poor listener, both on the telephone and in person:

1. May be abrupt and/or give one-word answers such as no, yes, and maybe.
Will be easily distracted.
2. In person, the listener may look around the room as opposed to focusing on the speaker's face.
3. Over the telephone, the listener may be opening mail, reading e-mail, filing, playing with hair, a pencil or a tie — anything that preempts focusing on the caller.
4. Constantly interrupts, making the speaker feel that what he or she has to say is not important.
5. The listener finishes the other person's sentences, implying that the listener already knows what the speaker is about to say.
6. Changes the subject without even realizing it.
7. Looks at his watch, signaling that you are wasting his time.

Remember that effective listening can open many doors. If you listen with your eyes, your ears and your mind, you will always get the information you need.