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Improve Your Communication Skills With Power Listening

Posted on October 31, 2012 by Leslie Dickson

Remember this feeling? You’re at a conference or a networking event, having a conversation with a colleague. Suddenly you notice his eyes have wandered away from your face, over your shoulder, to scan the room for other contacts.

Or try this scenario. You’re sitting across the desk from your supervisor to discuss a project. Every time the email alert sounds, she glances away to check it.

Or this one. You finish explaining a plan to a team member, who simply nods, then launches into describing his own plan.

I’ve experienced these all too common situations with “listening impaired” colleagues. I bet you have, too. Is there any clearer proof that great communicators start by listening? Until we’ve truly heard what colleagues have to say, there’s no common ground for progress.

I call this kind of concentrated listening “power listening”. And the truth is, it’s not easy to do. Distractions abound in our time-starved world. We want to cut to the chase because we’re convinced of our rightness. Or maybe we have doubts about the speaker’s credentials.

That’s where would-be communicators go wrong – and organizations suffer. Shallow listening actually closes minds.  Power listening opens them.

Keys To Power Listening

-Power listening is the basis of persuasion. It’s not until you’ve truly heard someone’s questions about or problems with your ideas that you can provide the answers that could resolve them.

-Power listening creates an honest, empathetic relationship. It’s the glue that binds a team together, the fuel that drives better outcomes.

-Power listening leads to better decisions and innovation. Surprise! You may actually hear information you didn’t know or creative ideas that change everything.

-Power listening turns conflict to strength. Not every decision is going to make every team member happy. Still, when people know their thoughts are heard, they’re better able to move forward in a positive frame of mind.

So how do you practice power listening?

-Turn off the distractions. Start with the externals ones — silence the email and text alerts and the cell phone. Then turn off the internal ones. Don’t be thinking about your next meeting or worrying about the stack of papers on your desk.

-Turn off the judgment. If your mind is at work stacking up objections, it’s building a wall against new ideas. Dig in to what’s being said and you may find a gold mine of possibilities – or at least a few nuggets.

-Turn on the listening signals. Keep eye contact, respond, maybe take a few notes – this helps the speaker open up. By the way, don’t confuse physical signals with real listening. We’ve all sat in front of someone who was nodding and smiling, but was obviously just going through the motions. No one is fooled by that hollow ruse – and it does more harm than good.

And let me repeat this one final reminder: power listening is hard. Really hard. Unbelievably hard. Everything in our busy days and get-to-the-point mind works against us. But I promise you this: it’s the only way to become a successful communicator. And it will pay dividends for your team, for your organization and for your career.

Let’s talk more about how VoicePro programs can help you and your team achieve more by building stronger communications skills.

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