The Art Of Great Listening

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If I listen, I have the advantage; if I speak, others have it.
– From the Arabic

The average person spends over 70% of his/her life in an awakened state. During this time, you are constantly communicating either with yourself or with others. Good communication skills are critical to success. People judge you by your ability to effectively convey your thoughts.

There are four main modes of communication: reading, speaking, writing, and listening. Reading, speaking and writing are part of the school curriculum from grade school through high school. For the most part, few people have had any formal education in listening. However, effective listening skills are crucial to your success.

One time a customer came into my office to discuss our quality control. He expressed that his company was important to him and that he had to do whatever necessary to make it grow. What he really said was: “Get it right or I’m going to take my business elsewhere.” I made the mistake of not hearing him and almost lost the account. Only some quick work saved a one-hundred-thousand-dollar customer, a customer that always paid his bills on time!

It is important to listen not only to what people say but to what they mean. Interpret the feelings they are expressing. People want to be appreciated. Fulfill their want by listening to them: it shows that you care.

People have difficulty listening because of bad habits they have developed over time. One bad habit is talking. It is impossible to listen if you are talking. However, unfortunately, most people feel that as long as they are speaking they are in control. Actually, the opposite may be true. Only through listening can we learn.

We have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that ratio and you will become an excellent listener.

Listen not only to the words but to how they are delivered. Meaning is in people and not just in their words. Listen for the intent, not just the content. Pay attention to changes in pace. Listen for voice inflections. Look “between the lines” for the real meaning. This is all called listening empathetically. You care, not just about what someone says, but why they say it. It is this greater understanding that will enable you to form the correct response to a particular situation and ultimately get the results from the relationship you desire.

If during a conversation you are showing that you are actively listening and are interested in what is being said, the speaker will give you more information. This is how your knowledge and resulting power grows.

There are several ways to enhance your listening skills and to show that you are interested in the person speaking to you. I have created a technique called FRAG, which is short for “fragment.” A fragment is a piece or part of a whole; something is missing. Likewise, if you don’t use good listening skills, you will only receive part of the message. Your response to an individual will be limited. In addition, having only partial information may leave you in a less competitive position.

FRAG stands for:

– Finish
– Rephrase and repeat
– Ask questions
– Gestures

First, always let the speaker finish his/her comments. Don’t interrupt and don’t change the subject. This assures you of receiving the complete message. Also, it is polite!

Second, repeat a portion of what the speaker said. This shows that you listened and understood the speaker. Rephrase the statement in your own words. By rephrasing and repeating what the speaker said, you will be sure that you understand the message and you will also show that you are both interested and sincere.

Third, ask questions. This, too, shows that you are interested. And it encourages the speaker to continue and expand on his/her message providing more valuable information. By asking questions, you can ask the person for clarification of the message for exact meaning, thus insuring understanding of the communication.

Fourth, use simple gestures such as a frown, eye contact, a smile, or a nod to signal that you are involved in the conversation. This sends positive feedback to the speaker and helps you maintain your concentration and interest.

By using the FRAG technique, you will receive the entire message and not just fragments. At the same time, you will develop a good rapport with the speaker.

It has been said that information is power. With good listening skills, you can obtain more information and have greater power. As your listening skills improve, you will get more out of each conversation, while at the same time, earning the respect of the person speaking to you.

A positive relationship is based on effective, two-way communication. Listening is an essential part of good communication. Become a great listener and you will be on the road to Building a Better Biz! 

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