Active listening is an essential skill for anyone in contact with people. Use theories of communication, nonverbal communication in business and managing techniques to build your communication skills. For business owners and managers this is particularly important when working with key stakeholders such as clients, employees, suppliers and others in your community or network.
When you have discussions with your staff or your customers, commonly there is one person talking and the others are listening.
But often what's happening is that the listener is already forming their reply or may be thinking about something else entirely; in other words not listening at all.
And in today's busy work environment, most of us hardly have time to listen actively because we're busy multi-tasking. For example, how often do you go out for a coffee or lunch or dinner with someone or with a group of people and at least one of them is texting on their smart phone while someone's talking?!
Not very, particularly in stressful or conflict situations.
Listening actively is very effective in sales and customer service situations. Key account management is successful when you have account managers and good customer service representatives who are effective communicators.
You need to focus your sales force management efforts on ensuring you have a group of strong communicators. And, if you need to improve effective listening in your sales group, consider the advantages of outsourcing. Then focus the sales management consulting firm on developing stronger listening skills.
The 'almost listening' approach is very common (we live in a world of multi-taskers); and this is even more true when the discussion or communication is one where you are trying to defend a position. If you are on the defense, your mind is focused on building the response; it is not focused on what the other person is saying to you.
So in conflict situations, where an angry customer is yelling at you about the mistake your company made, your instinctive response is likely to be mentally building your defense instead of actively listening to your customer's concern or complaint.
This is not an effective response. If you are so centered on formulating your reply; it is likely that you will present yourself as uncaring, or even as not listening. That only infuriates the angry customers, or employees, or associates, even more.
Actively listening to what the other person is saying means you must focus on that person, rather than on your response. It also means that you need to keep your mind open to listening from their perspective; not yours. Do not rush to judgment.
Often when you are in a stressful situation or in a conflict situation, you will want to defend or deny: defend your position or deny the other individual's position. That approach typically doesn't work to eliminate the stress or the conflict; in fact often it increases the conflict.
It is your role as the small business owner to demonstrate how effective leaders handle this type of situation. Show your employees how you communicate: active listening, and trying to understand the meaning of what the person is saying, develops a better opportunity for cooperating and conflict resolution.
Listen to the speaker, then repeat what you thought the listener said (by paraphrasing or reflective listening).
If you've interpreted what the speaker said incorrectly, then this is their opportunity to correct you and further explain their position.
The benefit of active listening is that you will better hear what others say and be better able to understand their emotional response if you listen, rather than prepare your own response.
Misunderstandings are often minimized or eliminated through listening more actively and giving the speaker the opportunity to confirm your understanding.
In an environment of open listening, people on both sides of the issue will open up more and be less defensive. The opportunity to resolve the conflict is much more likely.
In addition to active listening, nonverbal communication in business is another communication strategy; it is communication through gestures, movement and touch. Theories of communication state that messaging can be stronger through nonverbal communication. In business, a combination of active listening and nonverbal techniques can strengthen the communication process.
In today's online environment it is harder to add that element of communication; and in fact, written communications are often 'mangled' by short forming text messages.
The more you use active listening as a part of your communications style, the more trust you will build amongst your employees, co-workers, customers, and other stakeholders.
Build stronger communication skills. Be self-aware (in terms of how you respond, listen, interact). You will build better working relationships.
What basic management skills do you need to run your business?
Return from Active Listening to Managing.
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Hello. I am a professor teaching Human Resources Management. You have an excellent page on writing business value statements entitled your "Value Statement: Develop a Definition of Values in Your Business". I would like to use this page (giving full credit) to teach my students how to write good business value statements for the HR Strategic Plan they are required to prepare. Thank you. Richard C. Brocato, Ph.D. Professor of Management, Maryland, USA
(Note from Kris: I was happy to give permission to use as the source was fully credited.)
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