How do you become an effective communicator?

Have you worked on your ability to effectively listen to somebody else? Maybe you’ve heard that you should ask questions, keep eye contact, refrain from using “you did” statements, or clarify what you heard. All of these are correct, but how do you do these things?

Are you listening with judgment, your personal story or do you have the ability to listen from the position of trying to understand? This means you are not trying to advise, share your experiences or sympathize. When you listen with the intent to understand, you are providing a safe haven for other people to speak. You are giving them the opportunity to be heard.

This is what most people want—the opportunity to be heard, to be valued for what they think.

When most of us listen, we want to share our wisdom through our experiences. We want to give other people what we know rather than help them discover it for themselves. When we advise or share, we think we are helping, but do you remember when you wanted somebody to really hear you and they didn’t? Did you want to be told what to do? Did you want to be provided with the answers or did you want to simply share your thoughts with somebody else?

Maybe the conversation went something like this:

CO-WORKER: I don’t know what to think about my supervisor. He makes me so mad.

YOU: You’ve just got to let him go. He is making you crazy.

CO-WORKER: I know. I know but he is such a jerk. He deliberately criticizes me in front of the other staff members.

YOU: I’ve had similar situations with my boss. When he talked to me like that, I pretended like I was somewhere else. I didn’t let it affect me.

CO-WORKER: I’m not you though. I take things differently. I can’t just let it go.

YOU: You can be anybody you want to be. You know that.

CO-WORKER: Oh never mind. You don’t understand me.

YOU: I’m trying to help you.

 

What are the problems you see with the conversation above? Did you have good intentions? Absolutely. What happened was your co-worker didn’t want to be given a solution from somebody else. She wanted to vent. She wanted somebody else to hear her and to validate her feelings.

 

How could you become a better listener? What you want to do is to reflect what your co-worker is saying without putting a personal agenda on the conversation. How would that conversation be different?

 

CO-WORKER: I don’t know what to think about my supervisor. He makes me so mad.

YOU: You do look upset.

CO-WORKER: You bet I’m mad. He is such a jerk. Do you know that he criticizes me in front of the other staff members?

YOU: No. I didn’t know that but it does seem to irritate you.

CO-WORKER: No kidding. When he does that, it makes me feel so angry because I take it too personally.

YOU: You don’t like it that you take it personally?

CO-WORKER: No, it makes me feel weak and vulnerable. I wish I could stop taking things so personally. I know it doesn’t help me to do that.

 

There are times when you might want to ask a question to help others discover what they are really searching for, but first you want to help them know they are understood. Once they believe you are trying to understand them, you can ask simple questions to assist them with finding their own answers. The trick here is to stay away from your agenda and to make certain you are empathizing not sympathizing or preaching.

 

When you learn to listen without your personal agenda, you will establish better relationships with your team members, friends and family. Better listening skills create trust and trust is the number one thing to creating relationships which foster better outcomes for everybody involved.