Communication: “Now, Listen Properly…”
Communication: “Now, Listen Properly…”
Post written by Paragon Interiors   February 27, 2018

The biggest communication problem is that we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply. – Stephen R Covey.

This blog kicks-off our theme for the next few months – the importance of effective communication in the workplace. There is no better place to start, than to speak about the cornerstone of effective communication, the skill of active listening.

Research indicates that the average person speaks around 150 words per minute, but hears at a rate of 1000 words per minute (Molenda, 2013). This leaves an individual at the receiving end of a message, a great deal of spare time to either formulate a response, let his/her eyes wander to the pigeon perched precariously on the windowsill or to daydream about the pair of shoes that they saw on Spree before work in the morning.

We do this often without realising and we miss both the obvious and subtle nuances in a person’s speech that give away what they are really thinking and feeling – the root cause of miscommunication in many instances.

Active listening is the skill of concentrating intently on what a person is saying in lieu of understanding the message that they are sending rather than just reflexively hearing the words they speak (Skills you need, n.d.).

Active listening is a learnt skill that can be developed over time – it is not something that we are naturally adept at. In fact, if anything, our listening skills have worsened due to the distractions of technology and the stress of the fast-paced world that we live in (Schilling, 2012).

How do you know active listening is something you need to work on? If you find yourself interrupting others sentences often, if you frequently respond with advice, become impatient and attempt to change the subject when a topic is of less interest to you, this may be an area of development for you.

So, how does one develop the skill of active listening?

Maintain eye contact with the person speaking and encourage them to talk by demonstrating that you are listening. Your posture should be open – avoid crossing your arms or legs – and lean slightly towards the person. Our non-verbal behaviour can give away whether we are interested or not in what a person is saying. Glancing at your watch, looking at your cell phone screen or reading a document on your computer will communicate that you are not listening.
Practice reflective techniques – which is to listen intently to what is being said and then to repeat the message back to the sender to check that you have understood it correctly. There are different types of reflective techniques, but as a start, simply focus on repeating or summarising the information that a person has shared with you. This will help you to pay attention to what they are saying (Katz & McNulty, 1994).
Think before you respond. Allow for a few seconds of silence before replying. Research indicates that we typically respond within two seconds of a person speaking, whereas it takes the average person eight seconds to understand what a person has said and come up with an intelligible response (Molenda, 2013). Allowing some silence will also permit the person speaking time to reflect on what they have said and to correct themselves if necessary.
Avoid diagnosing or judging what the person is saying – this limits a full understanding of the message and discourages the person from sharing with you in the future (Mindtools, n.d.). Allow the speaker to complete their sentences without interrupting, criticising or diagnosing them.

Learning the skill of active listening can improve both your personal and professional relationships and can safeguard you against acting on information that you have misinterpreted.

As office design specialists, we really believe in the art of listening to our clients in order to accurately interpret their needs and translate them into an effective office design solution. Call us now for an obligation free quote!

References

Kats, N. & McNulty, K. (1994). Reflective Listening. Retrieved from https://www.maxwell.syr.edu/uploadedFiles/parcc/cmc/Reflective%20Listening%20NK.pdf

Molenda, D. (2014). Listen Closely. Retrieved from https://www.dwmmag.com/listen-closely/

Schilling, D. (2012). Ten Steps to Effective Listening. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2012/11/09/10-steps-to-effective-listening/#62cb8c6e3891