Leveraging Listening

Polished listening habits are part of what it takes to be an effective communicator.As I was preparing for a big research project as a journalism student at the University of Oregon, a favorite professor shared interview tips with the class. She said the biggest thing she learned since she was a beginner was to speak less and listen more. I’ve learned the benefits of listening extend far beyond the traditional interview.

Need to gain crucial management support? Deepen key relationships? Identify potential issues and opportunities? From focus group research to client, consumer, colleague and stakeholder relationships, your polished listening habits are essential to effective communications. John Marshall said, “To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well.”

Here we offer reminders and tips to help.

Establish Intent. Set a personal intention to listen actively before each conversation.

Prepare. Before important interactions, jot down key points you need to communicate. Glance through your list before ending a meeting to ensure you’ve addressed your items. Your list can help you feel freer to listen generously without worrying that you’ll forget an important point.

Communicate Sincerely. Maintain eye contact and respond authentically and thoughtfully. Ask probing questions to affirm your interest.

Limit noise. Pick meeting locations with a goal of limiting background distractions.

Focus. Make every reasonable effort to make engagement with your peers front and center. Don’t constantly check your iPhone and other gadgets or answer non-emergency calls or texts. Doing so makes others feel less valued. Make them feel worthy of your undivided attention.

It’s faster, but ineffective, to bulldoze over others’ thoughts and ideas. The longer you listen, the more you learn, allowing for more accurate communications.