In the business world, it pays to listen and know how to ask the right questions. Miscommunication and misunderstanding can lead to problems… unhappy customers, lost sales, excess inventory, misunderstood instructions, shoddy work, and disgruntled employees … all influencing your company’s bottom line.

A good listener can build trust, empathy, and understanding by practicing and improving listening skills. The ability to listen and actually hear what is being said is becoming rare as we spend more at our computers. Good listening makes for more open communications and prevents many problems before they start.

Here are some simple tips to improve your listening skills:

1. STOP: When someone talks to you, stop and give your full consideration. Focus. When you give your undivided attention, people feel they matter.

2. USE ACTIVE LISTENING: Show you are interested by your body language, using verbal cues, and making eye contact. Make sure your listening to talking ratio is 2:1; listen twice as much as you talk.

3. ASK OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS: Draw out information by asking open ended questions such as: “Why do you think that is?”or ” That’s interesting. Can you tell me more?” Don’t just ask yes or no questions.

4. RESTATE AND REFLECT: Reflect what the speaker is saying by restating what was just said in your own words. Ask for clarification if you are not sure. This reassures understanding for both parties.

5. PRACTICE SKILLS BEFORE PROBLEMS ARISE: The time for improving listening skills is before there are problems. By building a foundation ahead of time, communications flow more freely during times of crisis.

Photo by MSDesigns.

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