No matter how hard you work at creating and delivering clear messages in your communication, as a business owner you must learn how to actively listen to the responses from your messages. It may sound cheesy, but when you fail to listen, others around you may begin to think that you are constantly talking AT them, not TO them. There’s a big difference.
Talking AT Someone…
BradHambrick.com explains talking at someone as “the act of engaging with another person in a virtual monologue for the purpose of releasing an unpleasant emotion.” There’s no engagement. There’s no connection. Just a monologue of you talking about what you want to talk about with no intent on receiving a response. Boring for the other person, right?
Talking TO Someone…
So what’s talking to someone then? It is pretty much the opposite of talking at someone. Its purpose is to engage the other person with a back and forth dialogue. Often in business, talking to someone results in a solution or successful completion of the creation or completion of a goal.
Okay. So now that you know that listening is a key factor in successful communication, how can you improve on it you ask? Practice active listening.
You can practice active listening by doing the following when engaging in a conversation:
- Give Full Attention: give the other individual you’re in a conversation with your full attention. That means you aren’t working on another task or thinking about what you need to do next after this conversation ends (probably like right now how you’re thinking you’ve got to accomplish “____” when you’re done reading this blog.)
- Take the Time to Understand: it’s much easier just to let someone talk and hear what they say, but not process and understand what it means. Does it require you to take action? Does it require your approval? Although you heard the individual talking to you, did you understand what they were saying? This is a really important aspect of active listening because you must understand a problem or situation before solving it.
- Ask Questions as Needed: Do you really need to ask a question or can it wait? You should only interrupt to ask a question if it’s vital to your understanding of what message the other individual is trying to convey.
- Don’t Interrupt: Just don’t do it. It’s rude and can discourage the person you’re communicating with. No one wants to be interrupted. It feels like what you’ve said doesn’t matter and what you’re about to say doesn’t matter either. The only reason you might not follow this tip is to keep a meeting on track or keep the team on purpose. Here’s a helpful article on how to interrupt someone (politely).
These active listening tips are simple, yet easy to forget when you’re wrapped in the moment of trying to meet a deadline, accomplishing a company goal or motivating your team. For me, I often forget to talk TO someone because I am so focused on accomplishing the task at hand that I can sometimes offend those that are working with them because they can feel unappreciated. This blog is a good reminder for me to practice active listening skills with those around me (even my family too!). I hope this helps you down a path of better and more meaningful conversations and relationships both professional and personal.
Rebekah A. Dull, BA
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