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Tips For Active Listening & Relationship Building

“Mom, you forget everything…” my daughter said to me as she recalled something she told me from the not-too-distant past. “I didn’t forget…I just wasn’t listening…sorry…”

It was just a piece of random information to me that I never processed; my brain dumping it into its junk bin, never to be thought of again until my daughter mentioned it. She and I obviously put different weights of importance upon the same information. These weights we attach to information and ideas make us all unique and different and are influenced by a myriad of factors.

Yet, positive relationships are dependent upon understanding what is important to other people; that takes active listening, a skill that can be developed. It requires us moving out of the room of our inner world into the inner world of someone else for a bit.

In the business world, our customers may communicate directly (hopefully) or indirectly. If we practice active listening, we can pick up on both. Active listening means asking questions and noting responses. For example, I like to take notes during a meeting. That is better than not recalling an important detail!

Sue Shellenbarger (Wallstreet Journal, July 23, 2014) recommends specific BEFORE and DURING conversation tips to help us get the full benefit of our time with customers, co-workers and might I add…daughters!

Clear your mind of distractions by making a to-do list for later.
Create a list of questions and or topics you want to discuss.
Plan in advance to limit your own talking to no more than 20%
Don’t assume you know what the other person will say.
Silence any distractions including all electronic devices.

Take notes while you listen to stay focused (be mindful of good eye contact also)
Paraphrase what you think the speaker said and ask if this is correct.
Ask questions to help you clarify and sharpen the conversation
Pay attention to the speaker’s body language and facial expressions as potential sources of understanding.
Don’t be afraid of silence. Pause intentionally and you will help draw the other person out.