What is active listening? It is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. Many people do not use active listening skills in their communications.
Oftentimes they are planning what they response will be to a particular point made by the person they are conversing with – sort of planning their “attack”. Other times they might be distracted by their list of to-dos for the day, the weather, what they want to wear, or any other things on their mind that have nothing to do with the conversation.
What is the result of not using active listening skills? A lot of miscommunications, misunderstandings and potential trouble in that relationship.
In order for communications to be effective, the communicator needs to really LISTEN to what is being said and they need to care about how the other person perceives the message he/she is trying to send.
Personal relationships usually disintegrate because of poor communication skills. Misunderstandings and misinterpretations lead to resentments and walls are then put up between the involved parties. These resentments and walls grow over time and eventually the relationship falls apart. It is so important to understand the different between the message one is trying to relay and the perception of that message. They are more often than not, not the same thing.
From a personal perspective, I have this tendency to blurt things out loud – I am not necessarily expecting anyone to act on these messages. For example, I just found out, after three years in my relationship with a wonderful man, that when is say “I am thirsty”, that he thinks I mean “get me something to drink”. I was shocked to think that is what he thought, but when I thought about it from his perspective, I realized that this is what it sounds like. When I reminded him that I also often blurt out “I have to go to the bathroom”, we both laughed, realizing that my intentions in both instances were NOT for him to take action. How could he possibly go to the bathroom for me? This is a real life example of how the perception of our message becomes the reality – not the intention.
What does this mean for a business owner? It means that he/she needs to use active listening skills when dealing with customers and potential customers in order to truly understand, from their perspective, what the needs/concerns are for each customer and potential customer.
It is even more important in today’s marketing and economic environment, for sales people, small business owners, customer service representatives, and anyone involved in relationships with those who affect the bottom line, to be effective communicators. The massive influx of social media marketing sites is leading businesses towards the new model of marketing. This new model demands building relationships, engagement and two-way communication channels. Learning how to be an effective communicator will be helpful in all aspects of someone’s life – both personal and professional.
“We have two ears and one mouth so we can LISTEN twice as much as we SPEAK” (Greek philosopher associated with the Stoics, AD 55-c.135