If you are an entrepreneur or a manager, then you need people to trust you and follow your vision and direction. People must feel that they are being heard and respected, in order for them to return the favour!
Active listening skills are important to utilize in your everyday life in the workplace or at home. Passively listening while multi-tasking several things will give the impression that you are not paying attention, and could cause people to avoid you or maybe even resent you!
I remember a few years ago I met a senior manager at a global financial company who had the benefit of over 20 years of the best sales and management training. We discussed active listening. He was smart enough to know that we all need a reminder once in a while of the simple communication strategies that work best with others, because we do not want our colleagues to think that we are not listening, or do not care about their problems. I recommended this easy to remember tool as we both agreed that ‘simple’ often really does work best. The tool that I shared is R-E-O.
R – Reflect back or ‘paraphrase’ their main ideas, content, key words and ideas. You need not use the exact same phrase or sentences; rather just serve back the message that you got their main points. The beauty of this is that it immediately gives an opportunity to clear up any miscommunication right at the beginning of the conversation, as opposed to getting halfway through only then to realize you weren’t following the whole picture, and you have to start again from the top.
E – Empathy is a showing of a shared feeling and understanding of the emotional impact of the speaker’s situation. Be careful not to judge here, so please hold your own opinion until the other person is finished. If you need to illustrate that you understand, briefly mention the basics of your story, but this is not the time to take over the conversation. Your job is to listen actively and pay attention to their emotional state and body language. This is why you should be making eye-contact during face-to-face communications, so that you can monitor their emotional state and receptiveness.
O – Open-ended questions can be asked to get more information, background, and details that will help you and them discover a solution to the problem. We cannot ask a question that begs a “Yes or No” answer. We must ask questions that get them talking freely, in their own words. E.g. do not ask “Are you going to request a transfer?” Rather ask “What are your options on changing your current situation?”
Also, please remember to be careful with starting your questions with “why." It usually sounds like you are challenging or criticizing the person. E.g. “Why are you taking vacation now?” could be changed to “What are the benefits of taking your vacation now, as opposed to next month?” or “What are the reasons that you would like to have vacation now?” or “I was hoping you would not be taking vacation during this critical time for us (our company). Could you help me understand your thinking/planning/situation?”
I hope you find R-E-O a useful communication tool. There are many ways to increase your communication skills, and it often starts with understanding other people’s thought processes. The more you listen actively to others, the more you will understand them, and the more you will be able to build up genuine rapport and have a good working relationship.