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I’ve been helping people develop success plans  as an SAP Coach since 2015.  I joined SAP in 2010 leading business operations, process innovation and sales alignmnt  demand management programs for the Global Marketing organization and recently was a Franchise4Sucess CoE Lead.

 

Effective communication requires we master the ability of active listening. Too often, in our verbal communications we hear the words being spoken, but we don’t listen actively to comprehend the true meaning of the message. Instead, we reply quickly and offer our views and suggestions to solve a problem. An exchange like this often leads to misinterpretation and misunderstanding which negatively impacts productivity.

However, when we employ the technique of active listening our goal is to understand what that other person is trying to express before we formulate an answer. We further perfect our active listening skills by subsequently learning how to ask more effective questions.

Let’s review a simplified scenario of engaged listening breakdown:

  • Son asks dad for money: “Hey dad, I need some money.”
  • Dad quickly responds, “I just gave you money this week…No more! You have to learn how to budget better.”

The above scenarios is one such example where the person making a request doesn’t clearly explain the reason behind it. When we apply active listening skills, however, a more valuable and productive conversation would be as follows:

  • Son asking dad for money: “Hey dad I need some money.”
  • Dad’s response, “I gave you money earlier this week. Why do you need more?”
  • Son, “I forgot we have a field trip today and I need a little extra so I can eat lunch at the museum.”

Active listening, when used in our communications with one another, can drastically change its outcome. In the above example, the second conversation clearly is more effective than the first.

When we dig a bit deeper and fully comprehend the other person’s perspective, need or request we open up a dialogue which leads to more valuable conversations.

Effective communication is further challenged by virtual meetings – ‘the standard’ of how we work today. In virtual environments we lose the advantage of visual communication cues which allow us to better interpret requests, needs, etc. This is why workshops and customer meetings are more effective when held face-to-face.

The good news? Active listening skills can be learned.

With proper training we can rewire how we think and act, and ultimately become a more engaged listener.

Active listening is a skill that every successful leader has learned to master.

Below are a few, basic suggestions to help create more productive conversations and develop our active listening skills:

  1. Stay in the moment. Multitasking and multi-processing distract our ability to focus.
  2. Keep an open mind. Pre-conceptions alter our thought process and trigger responses based on our biases.
  3. Don’t jump to conclusions without more dialogue.
  4. Don’t speak for the sake of speaking. Your job is not to respond but to listen.
  5. Listen to what someone is saying and also pay attention to what they are not saying.
  6. Ask questions to ensure you fully understand the speaker’s perspective, need or request.

 

If interested about the listening brain click here.

Check out more blog posts in this series: Coach’s Corner.

   

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4 Comments

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  1. Jayne Phillips

    Thomas – thank you, I couldn’t agree more and I often comment that listening is the least applied communications skill out there.  Great tips for being mindful and focused when engaging with others, through listening.    Another thing to consider when virtual – close your eyes.   We often allow ourselves to be distracted by what we see when virtual and there are many things vying for our attention.  Close your eyes and really listen while applying the other techniques listed above.

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    1. Resmi K S

      Hi Thomas, Great blog! many useful tips to increase the listening power.

      Hi Jayne, I agree with you on closing the eyes during virtual meetings. It really helps me focus. I have read that 50% of our brain power is used to process visual information.

       

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  2. Jason Cao

    Thank you Thomas Sorge for an excellent post! The example really made it clear the difference we have within ourselves to develop greater emotional intelligence and therefore stronger relationships in personal and work lives.

    Those voices in our heads that are the manifestation of our biases are the toughest ones to conquer as we listen to others. In many cases, these inner voices and our actions – providing a solution and giving our opinions. However, I can see where if we don’t quiet these voices, they can lead us to judge too quickly and jump to the wrong conclusions.

    The connection to leadership is an important point as well. Great leaders that I’ve encountered have highly developed listening skills, are critical thinkers and compassionate at the same time. I think that’s also why they’ve been able to sustain their success.

    Cheers,
    Jason

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