As I work with more and more internet and technology companies, it’s clear that listening is the fundamental communication skill needed to increase productivity. When associates don’t listen to each other, messages are missed, misinterpreted, discounted, or just plain ignored. When communication is incomplete, the request or task doesn’t happen. When communication breaks down, action falters, relationships fail and productivity suffers.
I suggest FULL BODY LISTENING as a way to increase understanding, attention, and action that produces results. Here’s what I mean:
First, let’s thank Dr. Marahbian (I do daily) one more time for his study that told us how the individual elements of communication affect us… Given that 55% of meaning is derived through visual cues, it’s imperative to consciously listen through our eyes. In order to gain full benefit – we have to give full visual attention to fully pay attention. To best accomplish this, adopt a LISTENING POSTURE. Turn away from the computer. Take a breath – this clears the slate. Face your associate with open body language and look for the whole message. Take note of their body-language, posture, and facial expression while offering strong eye contact. An added benefit is that choosing an open listening posture will reflect back to you and program your mind to increase listening capacity. It’s like pressing a function key – it opens up additional capability. Creating a habit of shifting physically reinforces the idea that the communication is important and better attunes you and your associate. “We’re in the right program now…”
The physical shift to openness also helps us overcome our own attitudes and concepts about associates. Messages are lost when we discount the messenger. (Don’t shoot the messenger before you have time to understand the message.) Giving someone full body attention assists us to shift into a respectful gear that consistently improves interpersonal interactions. In addition making the shift will help overcoming fear when dealing with difficult communications (through Postural Echo). It simply breaks us out of the “too busy” syndrome.
Next, listen to tonality. This is something we usually respond to unconsciously. “The Boss said the report was great, but something left me feeling uneasy…” What is the emotional quality of your associate’s vocal expression telling you? For instance — does a subtle tension reveal undisclosed information? If you work in an open area and get annoyed trying to block out background noise, don’t. The trick it to include all of the sound, but give strong visual and aural focus to your associate.
Pick up a pencil. This could be part of your automatic physical response (listening posture). Jot down the message, or some key words and phrases that may be worth questioning or exploring. If the communication is about task or action – ask questions and write down particulars. WHAT is to be done, by WHEN, and WHY. Use post-its. Put the message somewhere that it won’t be lost in the pile. On your calendar, on the computer monitor?
Confirm understanding. Paraphrase the message and check to see if you understand it. ASK QUESTIONS! Define next steps and follow-up. Then be sure to follow-up.
It’s not rocket science! Most of what will improve the effectiveness of communication is a simple matter of taking action. The real trick is consistently choosing constructive actions to create effective new habits.
Here’s a trick from the new psychological “science” – Energy Psychology. When you really need to invigorate your listening, take the edge of your ear between your index finger and your thumb – flatten the curl of the ear and massage the ear from the top down to the ear-lobe. Ancient wisdom tells us that acupressure points on the ear connect to meridians that activate the listening sector of the brain. Many people do this unconsciously as a natural response to being in the listening role. I suggest that you usually do it in private – maybe while walking down the hall to an important meeting. If you’re really busy and having trouble focusing – do it inconspicuously the next time someone interrupts you, while you’re moving into your listening posture.
The intention to listen is fundamental to the ability to connect and perform.