Last week I was invited to give a talk on a variety of topics including Dynamic Listening Skills. One of my preferred methods to use is a tactic called, “What if?” This is a simple exercise where the person makes “what if” statements and uses them to drive new ideas or concepts. For example: What if we controlled our own thoughts and FOCUSED on what is being said? What if we ABSORBED more of the information that people shared with us? What if we ENCOURAGED the person speaking rather than waiting for our turn to talk? It seemed so simple. To be an effective listener, we need to focus our own thoughts, absorb what is being said, and encourage the speaker. Here are a few ideas to help you achieve this:
- Focus – This aspect of listening is the most challenging, as it requires significant self-control. Controlling our own behavior is a major element of behavioral intelligence. Unfortunately, neuroscience has shown that our thoughts will naturally stray. A behaviorally intelligent listener should be aware of this and will consistently re-focus their attention to the speaker whenever this occurs. Try following each word that the speaker says, much the way you would read a book. This helps to control your own thoughts as the conversation progresses.
- Absorb – This aspect of listening is where we learn and remember what was stated. From the behavioral intelligence perspective, we need to understand the information provided in order to explain and predict future behavior. One of the key elements is to absorb both the spoken and unspoken messages. This means watching body language, tone, inflection and coordinating it with the spoken words. This helps us to retain information and contextualize it into a coherent message.
- Encourage – This aspect of listening is about giving good prompts and affirmations to the speaker. Imagine talking to someone who keeps looking at their phone and saying, “yep…uh-huh…” This does not make for a very engaging conversation. Encouragement can be non-verbal – good eye contact, nodding the head, smiling, etc. It can also be done verbally – paraphrasing what was said, sharing an insight on the topic, etc. This will also help you to stay focused and absorb the information.
A behaviorally intelligent listener controls their own focus, absorbs the information provided to explain and predict behavior, and encourages the speaker to invoke positive influence.