Friday, March 23, 2007

Effective Listening Requires Specific Strategies

Listening does not take place in the ears. Hearing takes place in
the ears. Listening takes place between the ears.


Listening is an intellectual adventure.

We hear words and we can evaluate the meaning, importance, or urgency of what we hear.

We need to evaluate more than just the words. We need to become aware of the communicating styles, learning preferences and personalities of the people speaking. That information guides us in how we receive, accept and react to what we hear.

We need to think through how the messages affect our business and personal lives and we need to create plans for what to do with the information.

If we do not understand the words and their meanings, we need to ask questions, make comments, or seek clarification so we can make correct decisions.


Listening doesn't just involve hearing the words. We need to watch the person's body language and facial expressions to ensure the nonverbal messages match the oral ones. If we become distracted, we can miss an important clue that indicates what we
are hearing does not truly relate to reality. This is not to say the speaker is lying. What the words say and how the person delivers them might indicate uncertainty, confusion or doubt on the speaker’s part.

For example, if you ask an employee, "Do you understand?" the response might be "Yes."

However, the word "yes" might be accompanied by eye movement, a facial gesture or a shrug of the shoulders that might signal you are hearing what you want to

On the other hand, if you do not maintain eye contact while you are listening, you can send many mixed signals to the speaker.

This may indicate you are not interested in what the speaker is saying, you are distracted by your personal agenda, your don't agree with what the other person is saying, or that you flat out don't like the person. It could also signal that you feel intimidated or embarrassed by the person or the message.


listening does not involve total silence on the part of the listener. As listeners, we need to prove to the speaker that we are listening and understanding. We don't have to agree but we do have to understand the other person's position. We cannot understand it if we don't truly listen.

We listen with our voices by giving appropriate responses as the person speaks. This can be as simple as the sincere guttural sound, "Uh huh."

It could be a response like," I see," "I hear you," or I'm with you."

Or, you can display your understanding by repeating or paraphrasing the speaker’s words.


Listening is an attitude. To be a truly effective listener, "Ya gotta wanna."

That's a phrase I heard many years ago when I first started my sales career. To really listen to someone, you must think at least as much about the speaker as you do yourself. You have to adopt a mindset that whatever the speaker says may contain some value for you.

Is this always true?


But you will never be able to know this unless you truly listen carefully to what the person has to say. If you miss something, it's your fault, not the speaker's.

We all like to think we have value. When you show people you care about them, you gain their respect and their attention. Listening effectively creates a Win-Win situation that carries value way beyond a casual or even a highly structured listening encounter.

Employers who stress, model and train employees on listening skills own a competitive advantage. Employees who take responsibility for effective listening become valuable assets to a company and, generally, are the ones promoted faster and more often.

Listen between your ears. If you don't, you lose.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Why Business Writing Can Become Challenging

Many people struggle with business writing.

And, because of that, they waste a lot of time, become frustrated, and do not get the results they want or expect.

Let me share with you a couple of reasons why so many business professionals struggle with their business writing.

Let's talk about "how" we communicate.

We communicate in only two ways - verbally and nonverbally.

The word "verbal" means written and spoken. Many people think the word "verbal" only means spoken.

That's not true. The word "verbal" means written and spoken.

The verbal part includes the words you use and the tone you project with your words. If people do not understand those words, that communication will go nowhere. If your readers understand those words, then the tone you use - how you say it - might become more important than the words.

The nonverbal signals we send with our body language reveals much more than the actual words we use. When we slam doors with frowns on our faces and let out exasperated sighs of disgust, we are letting people know we are not happy. We don't say a word, but people get the message.

Another example of nonverbal signals is eye contact.

Have you ever walked into someone's office and said "Hey Joe. I've got a great idea."

Joe responds in a low, monotone pestered sounding voice, "Yeah, go ahead, tell me about it."

And, Joe never looks at you. He continues looking down at the pile of papers he was working on.

Or, he gets up from the desk by placing both hands flat on the desk to push himself up. Once he's up, he folds his arms behind his back (I guess that's so he doesn't hit you).

Then he starts pacing. While he paces, he checks the floor, checks the ceiling tiles, looks out the window to see if anyone stole his car, and finally checks his watch to make sure he brought it with him.

All this while, he never looks at you. Does that mean he's not listening? No!

He hears every word you say. How does that make you feel?

Right! About one inch tall.

Volumes of evidence show how nonverbals affect communication. For now, let's focus on how the nonverbal affect your writing.

When you write a letter, memo, report, or proposal, do you have the benefit of these nonverbal signals? No. We've wiped out more than half your ability to communicate.

Now do you understand why writing becomes so difficult?

We have grown so accustomed to communicating by using the nonverbal of our body language. We become frustrated when we cannot communicate as effectively on paper.

This is also why you would prefer to talk to someone, rather than write him or her a memo or letter.

In speech, you have the benefit of reading that person's nonverbals or having them read yours.

In writing, we must rely on words and tone. That's it, words and tone.

You do have some nonverbal. If you wrote an important letter to a customer in pencil, wrinkled it while putting it in the envelope, spilled coffee on it while you were writing it, misspelled the person's name, and sent it four weeks late, I think that's nonverbal.

For the most part, when you write, you do not have the benefit of nonverbal signals. That's why writing is so tough.