The Vital Skill In Communications Is Listening - Not Talking

I attended a two week seminar series on communications and I expected the material to stress techniques of expressing oneself. Not so. We spent most off the time (rightfully) on the process of better listening. There a few "techniques" of listening, mostly it is a process of getting rid of barriers we have built up over the years. For example, if you can't stand green people, how can you hope to understand what a green person is trying to tell you? Your filters will get in the way.

Another technique is to be truly interested in what the other person has to say. A helpful process is to give frequent feedback of what you thought you heard. But getting the information right is the small part of it. Showing the other person you are REALLY interested is the large part. I once was given the suggestion that when in a room with lots of new people (such as a cocktail party), pretend you will are required to make a 5 minute introduction of the person you are talking with to the group. If this were the case you would interview the person with real purpose. And they would love it. Who wouldn't like to talk to a Barbara Walters!

To get out of the dead-end trap of asking what a person has been doing, try switching to learning of the other person's views on subjects you expect they are interested in. This approach allows you to talk about forbidden subjects such as politics, religion, and sex. How do they feel about the death penalty, abortion, education, overseas travel, etc., etc.? Keep your own views out of it.

Are you listening?

©  2002 John D. Toellner, All Rights Reserved