<!-- 18. --> Leadership in Management

Listening and communicating to others – some basic rules

Listening and communicating to others – some basic rules

There are a number of effective communications processes that can be practised without too much difficulty. These processes can help us overcome the obstacles caused by different perceptions and poor listening – they help us to stay ‘on the same wavelength’ as the person we are dealing with.

  • Stop talking – you can’t listen while you are talking. It’s very easy to get carried away by our own thoughts so try to pause at frequent intervals and give the other person a chance to react. Some people never invite a response from the person they are talking to and then express surprise when people switch off from them. So think about shutting up and asking a few more questions.
  • Give your listener an overview or summary of what you want

to say before launching into detail. This allows the other person the chance to put into context what you are saying.

  • Put yourself in their shoes – empathize with the other person
  • when someone is trying to explain something put yourself in their position. Understand and see what they are REALLY trying to communicate. The ability to empathize is critical when dealing with difficult or emotional situations.
  • If you want to speak, use body language to get attention, e.g.

raise the palm of your hand and say “Can I comment on that?” and pause before commenting. This gives the other person the opportunity to pause and switch their attention to you before you speak.

  • Ask more questions – when you don’t understand what is being said or when you need clarification of a point. This clearly indi­cates that you are listening as well. However, avoid asking questions that either embarrasses people or illustrates their lack of knowledge unless you feel it is absolutely necessary to defend yourself. Tactics such as these often cause hostility or resent­ment and so lead to a breakdown of communications.
  • Don’t stop listening too quickly – avoid interrupting people
  • give them time to finish speaking before launching in yourself.
  • Concentrate on what the person is really saying – not what you think they are saying. We need to actively focus our atten­tion on their words and feelings.
  • Look at the other person – watch their face, mouth, eyes and body language. Observing someone’s body language can help us understand how they feel about what they are saying.

Mirroring or reflecting back their body language in a sensitive manner will help you to show that you are listening and trying to develop a rapport. But don’t simply mimic their behaviour as this might provoke a very different response.

  • Summarize what the other person has said at key intervals

– this helps us to clarify our understanding and avoid any poten­tial misunderstandings.

  • Leave any emotional baggage behind – if we can, we need to try to push our emotions, fears or problems outside the meeting room. Emotional factors often prevent us from listening effec­tively. But at other times recognize that we may well need to discuss people’s feelings in order to get to the real issues.
  • Control your anger – try not to get angry at what is being said. Whilst anger can be a positive force it can often prevent us from actively listening and developing a full understanding of what is being said. If you do feel strongly about an issue, recognize your feelings but try to isolate them and control them during the discussion.
  • Remove distractions – put down any papers or pencils you have in your hands as they can cause distractions when communi­cating. There is a risk we may start pointing!
  • Focus on the critical points – concentrate on the important ideas and not the detailed points. Of course detail is important, but it is often not as important as the critical points being made in a discussion. Getting agreement or understanding of the big issues is often the breakthrough in discussions. So examine the detail but try to use it to subsequently prove, support or define the main thrust of what is being said or agreed.
  • Don’t begin by stating that you disagree – people will only hear this negative stance and the strategy often provokes an unre­ceptive response from others. Instead we need to explain our position first and then add why we might find it necessary to disagree with a colleague.
  • Share responsibility for effective communications – only part of the responsibility for communication lies with the person speaking; as a listener we have an equally important role. Work hard at understanding what is being said and if you don’t, ask for clarification.
  • Evaluate the facts and evidence – as you listen, try to identify not only the significance of the facts and evidence but also their relevance to the discussion.
  • React to ideas, not to people – don’t allow your reactions to the person speaking to influence your interpretation of what they are saying. Remember someone else’s ideas or opinions may be valid even if you don’t like the person or the way they look.
  • Use the speaking and listening differential – we can all listen faster than we can talk. By using this differential to our advan­tage we can really stay focused and concentrate on what has been said. Our speech rate is 100 to 150 words per minute; our ability to listen and think is up to 250 to 500 words per minute.
  • Listen to how something is said – we frequently concentrate so hard on what is said that we miss the importance of the emotional reactions and attitudes being voiced in someone’s speech. In certain cases the attitudes and emotions surrounding a situation may be more important than the words being spoken.
  • Listen for what is not said – sometimes we can learn just as much by determining what the other person has not said as by what they have said. But in doing this we need to be aware of the dangers of selective interpretation, so we need to listen incred­ibly hard not just for the facts but also the feelings and if possible the underlying values being expressed.
  • Don’t antagonize the other person – we can cause someone else to conceal their ideas, emotions or attitudes by antagonizing them. This might be achieved by arguing, criticizing or not asking questions. So we have to be aware of the effect we are having on the other person.
  • Listen for the real person – one of the best ways of finding out about a person is to listen to them talk. By listening to someone talk we can begin to discover what they like and dislike, what their motivations are, what their values are and what makes them tick.
  • Avoid jumping to assumptions – the old adage states that assumptions can make an ASS out of U and ME. Assumptions can be extremely dangerous so don’t assume other people use words the same way you do, ‘they didn’t say what they meant, but you understand what they meant’. Don’t assume that they are avoiding looking you in the eye because they are telling a lie; that they are trying to embarrass you by looking you in the eye; that they are lying because they have interpreted the facts differently than you have, or that they are angry because they are enthusiastic in presenting their views. Assumptions like these may turn out to be true, but more often they just get in the way of clear understanding.
  •  Avoid stereotyping the other person – too often we try to box

a person to fit everything they say into what makes sense to us. They are a ‘compromiser’ or ‘difficult person’. Therefore, our perceptions of what they say or mean are all shaded by whether we like or dislike people and their general approaches. At times, it helps in understanding people to know their values and moti­vations, but we all have the capacity to be unpredictable and to not fit into convenient stereotypes, so beware.

  • Recognize your own prejudices – try to be aware of your own feelings towards other people and allow for these prejudices.
  •  Avoid quick judgments – wait until you have established all the facts before making any judgments on a person or situation.
  • Identify the influencing style being used – listen for the influ­encing style being used by the speaker: logic, emotion, authority, aggression.
Follow us on Social Media