When was the last time you left a conversation and felt completely heard, acknowledged, and happy with the interaction? As strange as this may sound, this does not happen as often as one may think it does or as one may desire.  Some of the factors affecting clear and complete conversations include the need to do more with less, a focus on generating results and skills that have not been practiced in a while.

One of the tools to continue to sharpen your skill set and grow your personal influence is active listening.

  • Active listening improves communication
  • Improved communication allows businesses to run more efficiently
  • Efficiently run businesses generate greater results

There are five behaviors aligned with active listening. These behaviors occur in no designated order and often the behaviors are repeated during a conversation.

  1. Look
  2. Paraphrase
  3. Summarize
  4. Wait your Turn
  5. Respect

Let’s explore each one in a bit more detail.

Look:  It seems so simple to say “look at the person that you are talking with”, right? How often though do I-phones, tablets, etc. catch our eyes during a face to face encounter? Distractions are real, we need to be aware of that fact and do our best to stay focused and engaged and this is demonstrated by using eye contact.

A general rule of thumb is to look at each other without staring. This can be done by briefly looking to the right or left of the other’s eyes. Practice with everyone that crosses your path.

Paraphrase:   Often during conversations items can become a bit unclear.  This is the time to check understanding by paraphrasing.  Some useful paraphrasing phrases include:

“What I heard you say is…”

“Let me make sure I understand what you just said, you told me that……”

These phrases assist in the clarification and correction of any unclear information.

Summarize:  CTA_Summary_webEach conversation typically ends with one or more actions or next steps.  An active listener will provide a quick summary so the parties know the next step or action.

“Thanks Jack, I will make sure to send you the report by the end of today.”

“Great honey, I will pick up the kids at school at 3PM and you will take Ayden to Boy Scouts at 6PM.”

“Our next meeting will be 12/3 at 3 PM EST and Andrea will lead the discussion.”

Wait Your Turn:  As active listeners-in-training, it is important to avoid interrupting others. Interrupting someone breaks their train of thought and it can create ill will.  Learning to wait your turn can be aided by jotting a key word or note so you are ready to respond when it is y
our turn.

Respect: Actively listening to others demonstrates respect.  There is no finer quality of a professional than respect for others. It generates good will and healthy teams and positive business results.

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Practice using the 5 active listening behaviors in each of your conversations and observe the positive results for you and others.