When we think about communication, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? It’s usually what we say, the message that we want to get across. Far too often, we focus on the delivery: what we will say, present and promote. All that’s important, but what about the other side? What about listening?
For there to be any type of effective communication, one party needs to be listening. And not just passively, waiting for the other side to stop talking, but actively listening and taking in the message.
As with every form of persuasive communication, there are a few key ways to improve your own listening and encourage active listening in your audience.
First, let’s state why listening is the initial step in communication? Because it helps us understand our audience and, thus, tailor our message to their needs and concerns. By listening well — through active listening — we can discover the best way to deliver the message we want our audience to hear.
As you seek to cultivate active listening, there are three important ways to engage with the other person:
- Fully Engage: Put away your cell phone and shut down your email. Truly focus on what is happening in this conversation. Ask questions, and listen closely to the answers. Be a thoughtful listener.
- Take Notes: For your listening to really pay off, you need to be able to remember what you’ve heard. A written log of a conversation is an invaluable resource as you move forward to analyse what you’ve learned.
- Repeat Key Information: When the conversation is over, review what you’ve heard, whether by going over your notes, discussing the call with colleagues or writing up a synopsis memo.
- Asking questions — and being open to the answer — is an important part of this process. Preparing a few questions in advance can be helpful; that way, you can really listen to the answers rather than thinking about what you should ask next.
In addition to allowing you to gather insights into your audience, the act of active listening demonstrates your respect for your audience. In our overcrowded, high-volume world, it is easy to forget that communication isn’t a one-way street. It’s not just about broadcasting our own opinions: It’s about exchanging ideas and learning. By listening well, you show your commitment to a respectful exchange. And your audience will be more likely to return that respect to you.
This article was written by Alex Malouf, a board member of IABC EMENA and experienced communications professional. You can learn more about the art of listening and having a frank dialogue at EMENAComm, IABC’s largest event for communications in the Gulf this February 11-12 in Bahrain. Join the HardTalk team on day one for Dawn’s keynote on how to create a stand up and speak out culture. For more information visit: www.emenacomm.com