ACTIVE Listening

Many of us remember our first Business Communications or Sociology course, where communication is defined. It’s a spherical diagram that showed two separate entities at opposite ends of the spectrum. Entity #1 sends a message to Entity #2. In response, Entity #2 then sends feedback (response) back to Entity #1. The process continued on an on-going basis until understanding or consensus is built, exactly as it's definition implies: a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.
These are all illustrations that represent the communication in its simplest form so why is it so hard to accomplish in business and personal settings. The missing ingredient is the feedback or exchange because those aspects require ACTIVE Listening. ACTIVE Listening is not hearing what people say but truly engaging in the process. Here are a few tips to get you started.
  1. Remove all the distractions so you can focus on the person sharing the message. Turn off your phone and/or blackberry while you are in a meeting. Get off your email during a conference call. Clear your desk when a person enters your work area
  2. It’s often stated that during ay communication exchange 20% is talking but 80% focused on understanding the other party. Thus, stop dominating the conversation in a discussion but mentally commit to digest what the person is sharing. Try to understand why you are being given this information by taking notes. How is this information going to impact them and then worrying about how it impacts you. Stephen Covey describes this as Seek to Understand then be Understood as one of the Seven Habits as Highly Effective Leaders.
  3. Know your audience. Before you share your message, this about how others will receive it. This means read the body language of the group during your presentation. Are you asking questions after a topic for clarity on the conference call? Are you trying to inform, persuade, or inspire because you this will tailor your message? 
Hopefully, you picked up a common theme of preparation, patience, and focus when having a communication exchange. That’s ACTIVE Listening. Try it for 90 days and I promise it will greatly enhance your effectiveness personally and professionally. In today's environment people are interdependent on each other. Communication is the key to moving forward, once you learn to LISTEN.