Over the years, I've personally found active listening to be a very difficult skill to develop. Why? Partly because I'm a "type A" personality who likes to engage assertively, sometimes even aggressively, in conversation. I find myself occasionally interrupting people so that I can get my point across or "win" the conversation/debate. Many words have been written and training programs developed around active listening. Below is a summary of my thoughts on the topic.
First, I've learned the importance of asking questions that demonstrate genuine interest in the other person’s circumstances. I emphasize genuine, because sincerity is essential — its absence will most certainly result in a lack of emotional connection. I’ve learned to ask open-ended questions that encourage a more engaging conversation, as opposed to closed-ended questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Next time you watch a reporter on TV, notice that they’ll almost always ask open-ended questions in order to glean additional information and knowledge.
During the course of my recruiting career, I’ve frequently been asked questions only to be interrupted, in the middle of my response, with another question that may or may not be related to the initial question. Let me assure you that this is not a good practice. In fact, it can be a major turnoff that might result in a communication breakdown.
This is why I’m a firm believer in the “pause.” Many of you have heard the adage that the person who talks first and most frequently loses power in the conversation. Whether you’re asking a person a question or being asked a question, I highly recommend taking a deep breath and waiting a couple of seconds before speaking again. This will send a message to the other person that you’re truly listening to them.
In my next blog, I’ll discuss in detail how you can express your feelings to build strong emotional connectivity.
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