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Communicate With Your Ears

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

And you thought the best way to communicate was with your mouth. While choosing the right words to communicate is important, listening is a vital part of effective communication. An article from Harvard Business Review states that “Good listening is much more than being silent while the other person talks,” and continues to stress the importance of creating a ‘positive environment’ with ‘cooperative communication,’ as well as giving suggestions at the end. Think through these steps when listening to communicate:

  1. Reflect – verify and clarify what you heard the speaker say.

  2. Probe – ask a few questions. Don’t jump to a conclusion or feel like you have to solve the problem.

  3. Support – show genuine empathy. Saying “I understand” goes a long way.

  4. Advise – Offer new information if you have it, or facts, but don’t feel like you always need to solve the issue right away. It’s OK to say, “Let’s look into this further.”

One of the most important guidelines to follow is to not interject; the article went on to state that one of the biggest complaints of a “bad listener” is that “So-and-so didn’t listen, he just jumped in and tried to solve the problem.” While offering solutions is a great way to help, it interrupts the speaker, creates a hostile environment, and goes against tip #2 above - don’t jump to conclusions. The speaker is likely wanting to provide more information, and cutting her/him off and assuming the outcome ruins the flow of the conversation as well as the respect for the speaker. It is also important to be aware of nonverbal behaviors, such as maintaining eye contact, uncrossing your arms, and looking engaged. Stay away from distractions, such as electronics, and control your expressions and tone of voice. Being a good listener not only earns the respect of your coworkers and peers, but also leads to a more productive and positive environment, where people can collaborate and comfortably share ideas.

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