Tips on Listening: Key to Communication

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At the end of the year, many supervisors meet with their subordinates to evaluate performance. Such evaluations are most effective, when they trigger a conversation not just on the accomplishment of outcome and process goals, but also on continuous improvement: what will it take to be even more effective in the upcoming year. (See Key to success is effective listening – going beyond hearing the words to truly understanding what the other person is saying, by attending to tone, pauses, body language, etc., and asking follow-up questions to get to the underlying issues that are missed with surface questions.

In Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone, Mark Goulston raises a number of tips on how we can listen more effectively. The goal is to go from transactional to transformational, by learning how to respond with targeted questions. For instance, if you’re not sure you’re getting a solid answer to a question, let the other person help out, by asking: “What question did I fail to ask or what problem did I fail to address that, if I had, would have caused you to give me a different answer?”

Another valuable tip involves how to move a person from “crisis” to resolution. For instance:

You: “Tell me what happened.” After you get, an answer, follow-up with clarification: “I need to make sure that I heard exactly what you said, so I don’t go off in some wrong direction. If I heard you right, what you said is…. Is that correct?”

After getting confirmation, move to the emotional level: “What makes you FEEL angry/frustrated/upset about this?”. Now move to the resolution stage “And the reason it’s so important to fix this or make it better now is?”

With that, begin a collaborative effort to identify and gain agreement on the solution. This increases the odds of success as the communication is clear and both sides have some ownership!

What tips do you have to make sure listening is effective and generates deeper understanding for solutions? Share with us!

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