You might think that listening and hearing are the same thing. But consider for a moment how the phrase 'I hear what you say' gets misused and you start to see how they are different Listening is a process that has three basic steps and 'hearing' is just part of the process..
- Hearing. Hearing just means listening enough to catch what somebody is saying. For example, somebody might say that 'no two zebras are alike'. If you can repeat that fact, then you've heard what was said.
- Understanding. The next part of listening happens when you take what you've heard and understand it in your own way. When you hear that no two zebras are alike, you might think, "Maybe this means that the pattern of stripes is different for each zebra." That specific information wasn't in what you first heard but would be a reasonable conclusion.
- Judging. After understanding what was said, think about whether it makes sense. Do you believe what you've heard? You might think, "How could the stripes be different for every zebra? But then again, the fingerprints are different for every person. I think this seems believable."
Becoming an 'Active' listener
Listening effectively is not a passive process. You have to be engaged and you have to be actively involved. Here's a few tips on how you can sharpen up your listening skills:
- Give your full attention to the speaker. Obvious, I know. But how often do you find yourself talking to somebody and notice their eyes darting around at things that are distracting them? Learn to develop tunnel vision - block out everything else happening in the room or outside the window.
- Make sure your mind is focused. The most dangerous time can be when you think you know what's coming next. Your mind wanders and you 'hear' what you thought you were going to hear. But what if your prospective client said something subtly or even substantially different? Would you ever know? Every statement or question from a client could be a complete game-changer. If you feel your mind wandering, change the position of your body and concentrate hard on each of the speaker's words.
- Let the speaker finish before you begin to talk. Speakers appreciate having the chance to say everything they wanted to say without being interrupted. When you interrupt, it looks like you aren't listening, even if you really are. And anyway, what if the most important thing - the real nugget of information - was in what they were about to say but you never gave them the chance?
- Let yourself finish listening before you begin to speak! You can't really listen if you are busy thinking about what you want say next. Taking a short pause before you answer a question lets you process any information you have been given and your answer is likely to be more relevant as a result. It also shows that you are giving what you have just been told due respect rather than it just being an interlude before you can resume saying what you wanted to say.
- Listen for main ideas. Every speech, short or small has main ideas - the most important points the speaker wants to get across. They may be mentioned at the start or end and repeated a number of times. Often, there is a clue. Statements that begin with: "My point is..." or "The thing to remember is...", should mean 'sit up, and concentrate hard.'
- Ask questions. If you're not sure you understand what the speaker has said, just ask. Repeat in your own words what you think somebody has said so that you can be sure your understanding is correct. For example: "When you said that no two zebras are alike, did you mean that the stripes are different on each one?"
- Let the speaker know you are listening. Sit up straight and look directly at the speaker. Nodding, smiling, frowning, laughing or just being quiet in the appropriate places will show that you understand and are giving somebody the respect of listening properly. You listen with your face as well as your ears!
You can think faster than you can talk
Time is on your side! Thoughts move about four times as fast as speech. With practice, while you are listening you will also be able to think about what you are hearing. You can then really understand it and give appropriate feedback to the speaker. Put these ideas into practice and you'll find that you are not only hearing more, you'll be understanding more and communicating more effectively too.
The Bid Coach helps people from businesses of all sizes to become more effective communicators, especially when they are seeking to win significant chunks of new business. More and more clients want to interview the team they would be working with before making the final purchasing decision so building effective rapport during any face to face communications is an ever more crucial part of the business winning process. Call him on (01963) 240555 email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.thebidcoach.com
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