Business communication skills listening
business couple talking image by Pavel Losevsky from Fotolia.com
For truly effective communication, business people must hone their listening skills to ensure they fully understand the whole message: not just the content, but the motivation behind what’s being said, the circumstances around which they’re conversing, even what gets left out of the conversation. Colleagues must listen with ears and eyes, picking up on voice tone and physical cues to take in the whole message.
Quite literally, you can’t listen if you can’t receive audible input. To make it easy to hear, find a place with no interruptions or background noise – space that may be difficult to find on an assembly line or sales floor. Reduce background noise, phone calls, pinging email notices or any other stimuli that might tempt you to multi-task. Stop work, look at the colleague and focus on what he is saying.
With physical distractions minimized, concentrate on the speaker, filtering out extraneous ideas. Wait until the coworker has finished a thought, allowing for pauses between sentences. Even if you agree with what she says, interrupting the thought can distract her or make her feel too uncomfortable to flesh out the thought further. Important facts or ideas go off-course this way, sometimes permanently.
Related Reading: How Are Communication Skills Impacted in a Business Negotiation Situation?
Once you take in the message, follow up to ensure comprehension. Ask questions to clarify parts you feel unsure about, preferably by repeating the particular point that is an issue and asking your colleague to elaborate or even rephrase until you gain clarity.
Throughout the conversation, but particularly toward the end, provide feedback. Maintain eye contact, with the body squarely facing the speaker, and nod or give encouragement with “yes” or “I see.” Then recap or paraphrase key points, summarizing in your own words what you heard and giving the speaker time to confirm or correct these summaries.
The most important way to make the speaker feel confident that he has been heard is to remember the conversation. During the conversation, write down points or phrases to jog your memory later. These notes can include nonverbal cues, like “seemed very agitated” or “was enthusiastic” to help recall the intensity or tone of the message. Look for specifics to act on, then get back to your coworker and show how these actions made a difference. This reinforces confidence and trust that you really do listen, and encourages colleagues to speak up more often.
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