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Monday, June 23, 2008

Time to Be a Good Listener #2

6. Wait for the person to open up. In the process of encouraging a constructive response, an active listener must continue to be patient and let the speaker acquire his or her full flow of thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Keep yourself in his or her shoes and try to estimate why he or she is in such a situation.

7. Use body gestures and facial expressions to express your interest and to unearth what is left unsaid. Active listening involves the entire body and face--both yours and that of the speaker:

* Your expression: Look interested and meet the gaze of your speaker from time to time. Do not overwhelm the speaker by staring intently, but do reflect friendliness and openness to what you are listening to.

* Read between the lines: Always be alert for things that have been left unsaid or for cues that can help you gauge the speaker's true feelings. Watch the facial and body expressions of the speaker to try to gather all information you can, not just from the words. Imagine what kind of state of mind would have made you acquire such expressions, body language, and volume.

* Speak at approximately the same energy level as the other person. This way, he or she will know that the message is getting through and that there is no need to repeat.

8. Be patient and respect pauses. Do not jump to speak up after the speaker has come to his or her own conclusions or resolutions and there is a pause. It is possible that more is yet to be said by the speaker. Let the speaker be the first to break this silence. You can always come back with your solutions or suggestions next time you talk, or the speaker may ask you to clarify your thoughts or offer more opinions at the time. Listening is about understanding another person, not about making suggestions (unless asked).

9. Try to reassure the speaker that all is well. Whatever the conclusion of the conversation, let the speaker know that you have been happy to listen and to be a sounding board. Make it clear that you are open to further discussion if need be, but that you will not pressure him or her at all. In addition, reassure the speaker of your intention to keep the discussion confidential. Offer to assist with any solutions if you have the ability, time, and expertise. Do not build up false hopes, however. If the only resource you can provide is to continue to be an active listener, make that very clear; in and of itself, this is a very valuable help to any person.

10. Accept that everyone has a unique thought process and ways to express himself/herself. Too often we jump to conclusion before others finish talking because we place information we hear into our own thought process. Try not to do that. Instead, look for fine differences if it sounds like the speaker may be agreeing with you, and look for areas he or she might indicate agreement if it sounds like an objection. Understand that you do not need 100% agreement to reach the same decision.

11. Just because someone is speaking to you, do not presume that they are asking you for your input! All too often we think the other person really wants to know what we think about what they are saying…wrong! Wait, let the speaker ask you for your opinion, thoughts or ideas. Otherwise, you may become the speaker but you will not have a “listener” in the audience! This is a fun exercise. You may be surprised at how many people will NOT ask you for your input. And all these years that you have simply “chimed in” with your input, you thought they actually wanted it.

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