May 05 2009


Effective Communications


Requires EFFORT!


If you’re willing to put out the extra effort because clear, concise and accurate communications is important to you and your business, be prepared to take a more active listening role. As you may need to project yourself more assertively, be equally conscious of the need to become a better listener.

Resist the temptation to skip ahead in your mind while someone else is speaking. Stop trying to imagine what’s next and, perhaps even worse, stop reviewing in your mind over and over what has already been said. You can always check that later, or simply interrupt to request a once-over on the part you missed or didn’t understand.

When your mind races ahead of what’s being said, or drags behind to mull over something that has already passed by, you miss the present moment and the statements that are being made, as well as the nuances of expression and intonations that give the words their true meaning. You must work at staying focused and not allowing your mind to drift.

How can you keep your listening and comprehension skills on the front burner? Follow these four simple rules of good listening:

  1. TAKE DEEP BREATHS. Just as flames die without oxygen, so will your ability to keep focused on the present moment die out when your “normal” way of breathing fails to get enough oxygen to your brain. By deep breathing (which no one needs to notice if you practice it enough), you will also be prompted to not cross your arms or legs or hands…all signals that subconsciously tell the speaker that you are mentally “closed off” and not receptive; often these nonverbal signals communicate defensiveness as well.

  2. TAKE NOTES. Writing down what you hear keeps your brain uncluttered by getting the words from the speaker through your ears, into your brain and down your arms into your hands and fingers and onto paper (or your keyboard, if appropriate for the setting and circumstances). You can keep your notes and look at them anytime without the distraction or taxing of your memory that occurs when you carry the comments or instructions around in your mind like a ping-pong ball lottery drum filled with tumbling numbers. Taking notes helps you listen more carefully.

  3. MAINTAIN GOOD EYE CONTACT. It’s a fact that just as you can “hear” a smile, you can “see” what you hear in person. In other words, good eye contact (not staring) communicates attention and interest. You will also absorb more of what the speaker really means by the words used, by watching for gestures and facial expressions in the process. Can you look in the mirror and tell yourself how happy you are while actually communicating something else with your face, hands and posture?

  4. PARAPHRASE WHAT YOU HEAR by repeating back what you got from it in your own words, and in the form of a question. “Do I understand you correctly to mean that…?” (finish the question with your own words, interpreting what you think you understood). “If I understand you correctly, you’re saying…is that right?” works fine too. The speaker will be flattered. Asking for examples is another great technique.

The point is to take responsibility for listening carefully and taking notes and repeating back things to clarify and make sure that what is said is what you heard. It’s YOUR job to be sure that YOU’RE right, right?

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Hal@Businessworks.US or 931.854.0474

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance!” [Thomas Jefferson]

Thanks for visiting. Go for your goals.

Make today a GREAT day for someone!

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Dec 01 2008

99 OUT OF 100 MANAGERS . . .

What one thing


could you be doing better? 


     Before you start accounting for any business downturn you experience by blaming swings in the economy, in the stocks and bonds markets, in real estate, in interest rates, in politics, in government, in international relations, or anything else beyond your immediate control . . . STOP!

     STOP and reassess what IS within your immediate control that you’re not doing as well as you could be doing. 

     The odds are (assuming you’re willing to be honest with yourself) that one thing, if not THE one thing you could be doing better has something to do with communication.  Possible?  Or am I just imagining things?

     If you’re still with me, it seems fair to say that you probably agree that you and your employees could do a better job of communicating.  If that’s the case, then the liklihood is great that you and your employees most need to do a better job of listening.

     When you can become a more active, more effective listener, you set yourself up to be more in control of your business and better equipped to guide it through difficult times.

Take this little test . . . 

If you were the boss, choose one of the four choices offered (only one choice really works!) as to how you would most likely respond to the following situation: 

Disgusted with all the resistence given to suggestions offered, the disgruntled employee storms out of a meeting on how to increase sales, complaining loudly, “What the hell’s the point of coming up with innovative ideas around here anyway?” 

Should your response be A, B, C, or D?

A) “Don’t worry; you’ll come up with another good campaign.”

B) “I understand; I have trouble getting new ideas across myself!”

C) “Sounds like you’re discouraged about trying to change things.”

D)Can’t you re-think key aspects of the campaign and present it again next week?”

     If you answered A, B, or D, you chose a type of reponse that 99% of managers would have used.  While each shows good intentions (A is reassuring; B is sympathizing; and D is questioning) — they all represent roadblocks to effective communication with the troubled worker. 

     If you chose C, you may have an edge in effectively handling employee complaints.  A, B, and D represent expedient but totally nonproductive responses.  What’s going on?  Most bosses are in too much of a hurry to make the problem go away and aren’t willing to use active listening skills. 

(Test and conclusion from an American Airlines in-flight magazine article by Gage and Beuford)

     Partly because it takes more time, effort and energy to listen carefully and most people find it difficult to believe that it’s worth the effort.  Partly because most people (maybe even more than 99%) have no training in how to be active listeners. 

     When an employee complains, the instinct of almost all managers is to dispense with the problem as soon as possible.  These expedient kinds of responses are natural, but they don’t get to the heart of the issue, and, in fact, often deepen the employee’s feelings of not being understood, appreciated or accepted.

     Experiment:  Take one entire day and try to listen harder.  Make notes to yourself about what you think you really hear.  It certainly can’t hurt; it doesn’t cost a penny; and you might be surprised.    halalpiar 

Tomorrow: Active listening best practices that can impact your bottom line immediately

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