4 techniques to improve your active listening skills

 Aug 13, 2014

Why is it so difficult to stay focused and actively engaged in some conversations?

 One of the main reasons is that we listen faster than we talk. In today's article, I'll share some key listening techniques that will assist you in clearly understanding the other person's message and how to respond appropriately. These tips are particularly critical when you find yourself in challenging situations such as dealing with upset customers and conflict.

1. Express empathy Expressing empathy is a particularly critical technique to use in order to help reduce emotions by letting the other person know you appreciate where they’re coming from, for example, "It can be really frustrating when people don’t appear to be listening to what you have to say." It allows us to demonstrate respect by tapping into the feelings behind the words.

2. Ask questions to clarify and confirm Always make sure you clearly understand what’s being said before you respond, especially when the speaker uses words which can be misinterpreted. Clarifying through the use of open questions allows the speaker to expand on what they have said. Once you clarify, you can confirm, with a closed question, what you heard to ensure you are on the same page.

An example of an open question to clarify would be on the lines of: "What exactly do you mean when you say it’s too expensive?" An example of a closed question to confirm would be: "Am I correct in saying that you have compared our service to others?"

3. Frame your questions Framing questions is a technique that allows you to provide a reason for asking the question. People are more likely to provide a response if they understand why you are asking the question. For example, asking "So I can identify the best option for your particular circumstances, why is managing cost so important for your business?" would generally prompt the other person to give a more contextual answer.

4. Ask for agreement This technique is useful to ensure that both you and the speaker are on the same page throughout the conversation and at the end. This will certainly avoid any assumptions. An example of asking for agreement would be: "Will this resolve your concerns?"

Personally, I believe that we should all invest our time in using these techniques to foster stronger, collaborative relationships. There are many other techniques out there to improve your active listening skills; these are only a few. If you have any other useful techniques, feel free to share them with me.

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About the Author:

Trish Dobe  

Trish has over 20 years of experience in organisational development, change management, and corporate learning & development both within Australia and overseas. As one of New Horizons' Professional Development trainers, Trish’s main focus is the delivery of solutions which enable organisations to measurably improve their performance. Trish specialises in the delivery of training programs in the areas of performance management, leadership, process improvement, sales and customer service. From a practical standpoint, she has held a number of roles varying from front-line through to senior management within a variety of commercial environments. With this, Trish brings her practical experience into the classroom and gives her the ability to engage professionals from junior to senior levels.

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