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Active Listening Skills | Improve Your Listening Skills

Active Listening Skills

Improve Your Listening Skills with Active Listening
active-listening

Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. Being able to do it well has a positive impact on all aspects of your life, including how effective you are at work.

Research suggests, however, that we only remember 25-50 percent of what we hear, meaning that we could be missing important messages.

Key Points
It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be an active listener. Old habits are hard to break, and if your listening skills are as bad as many people’s are, then you’ll need to do a lot of work to break these bad habits.

There are five key techniques you can use to develop your active listening skills:

  1. Pay attention.
  2. Show that you’re listening.
  3. Provide feedback.
  4. Defer judgment.
  5. Respond appropriately.

Start using active listening techniques today to become a better communicator, improve your workplace productivity, and develop better relationships.


Join Toastmasters and find a club that you like to practise your speeches in a friendly environment. You are welcome to visit our Kampong Ubi Toastmasters Club if you are living in Singapore.

To be a good speaker, we need to be a good listener.
The following are some good other resources on active listening skills.

Improving Listening Skill: 10 Ways to Better Listening by Dana

10 Ways to Be a Better Listener

  1.  Don’t interrupt the speaker.
  2.  Don’t change the subject in the middle of a conversation. Make sure that subject is finished before moving on.
  3.  Check your understanding by paraphrasing what the speaker said. 
  4.  Pay full attention to the speaker.
  5.  Maintain eye contact with the speaker.
  6. Don’t jump to conclusions before the speaker is finished speaking.
  7. Watch for emotional reactions and keep them in check.
  8.  Don’t say: That reminds me. . . or That’s nothing, let me tell you about… Listening is not thinking about one-upping the speaker.
  9.  Ask probing questions to gain understanding.
  10.  Remember the golden rule, it applies here too. Listen to others as you would like to have them listen to you.

The Guide to Better Listening eBooklet

Talk Less and Listen More by the people of Give More Media

Improve Your Results With Active Listening

Listening is one of the most common and important things that we do. Recent research on work behaviour suggests that we spend approximately 9% of our time writing, 16% of our time reading, 30% of our time talking and 45% of our time listening.

Listening is a fundamental part of the communication process. Regardless of the type of job you do or the industry in which you work, it is important to understand the listening process, have an awareness of barriers to listening effectively, and learn how to listen actively.

Listening as a process
Hearing and listening are not the same thing. In fact, hearing is just the first of three stages in the listening process, all of which are fairly obvious but still worth remembering.

Hearing Simply the process of sound waves being transformed by our brains into impulses.

Attention Important so that we can hear what is being said to us, but often difficult due to distractions such as noise intrusion or internal distractions such as thinking about something else rather than what is being said.

Understanding This is the most crucial aspect of the process on a number of levels. As well as understanding what is being said, we need to try to understand the context of the message, and understand the significance of any verbal or non-verbal clues from the speaker. Having a degree of background knowledge regarding the speaker or the subject is also helpful.

Barriers to listening
In most situations, there are a number of obstacles which can stop us from listening effectively, and as a trainer it is important to appreciate what these obstacles are and how to overcome each of them. Broadly speaking, there are four types of barriers to listening –

– Psychological barriers, including prejudice, apathy or fear on the part of the listener. For example, someone working in marketing or production may not be as interested in a presentation on annual financial results as an accountant or sales director, given that it may not directly impact on their day to day activities.

– Physical barriers, including disability, fatigue or poor health on the part of the listener. For example, trying to listen to a speaker for long periods while you are suffering from a heavy cold is a fairly difficult thing to do.

– Environmental barriers, including distracting noises, uncomfortable or poorly positioned seating, or an unsuitable climate such as an overheated, stuffy meeting room.

– Expectation barriers, such as anticipating a mundane or boring presentation, expecting to receive bad news, or being spoken to in confusing jargon.

In a work or educational situation, you can certainly address tangible barriers such as environmental factors or physical obstacles. Dealing with internal barriers can be more difficult, but a lot of this can be achieved by thorough preparation before any meetings or group sessions.

Active listening
In order to understand the concept and value of active listening, it is worth considering it as one of three different types of listening.

Competitive listening You will see this most often in negotiation situations, or when politicians are debating with each other. The person being spoken to is more interested in getting their own point of view across when the other person stops speaking, rather than acknowledging what they have just heard. Alternatively, they are distracted by thinking about their own argument or point of view rather than listening properly.

Passive or attentive listening This is always a danger in lecture style presentation sessions. An audience will pay attention to the slides and listen carefully to the speaker, but there is no real opportunity to interact. This means that the speaker may not know how well their message is being understood.

– Active listening This is the best way to listen for and understand the real message in what people are saying. It involves taking the next step from just listening attentively, by looking to show obvious interest in what the speaker is saying, and by trying to interact with them. As a manager, salesperson or trainer you need to try to use active listening yourself, and provide opportunities for colleagues, customers and learners to use active listening techniques as well. This is of particular importance when involved in informal training activities such as coaching and mentoring.

In terms of outlining the techniques which can be used for active listening, it is useful to think back to the three basic stages of the listening process – hearing, attention and understanding.

Hearing and attention
– First and hopefully obviously, stop talking.
– Try to eliminate as many distractions as possible, both external and internal.
– Try to control your own non-verbal signals to the person speaking. This could mean paying attention to your physical stance, your body movements, eye contact with the speaker, and encouraging motions such as nodding or smiling.

Understanding
– Make sure that you understand the purpose of the speaker, and also be aware of you want from the conversation.
– It also helps to take notes, but try to focus on writing down keywords and phrases that will jog your memory later, rather than trying to write down everything that is being said in an act of dictation.
– If possible, try to ask questions. You can use the notes you have written to remind you of points that need clarification. Try not to interrupt though!
– Finally, try to use the technique of reflecting what the speaker says to you.

Reflecting
This is a technique used extensively by people involved in consultative selling, but it is also a very useful tool for anyone involved in business, education, training or voluntary work. Communication can be broken down into three levels – facts, thoughts (or beliefs) and feelings (or emotions). Reflecting works on all three levels.

– Repeat the facts that you think you have been given by the speaker. This is sometimes referred to as ‘parroting’. If you are right, you know that you are getting the basic elements of what the speaker is telling you. If you have made any mistakes, this gives you both an opportunity to get back on to the same page.

– Also, share the thoughts or beliefs that you have heard, and try to convey the underlying feelings or emotions which you believe are involved. For example, the speaker may be very upset and wants you to display empathy or sympathy with their situation. It is this reflection of thoughts and feelings which distinguishes reflecting from just parroting back to the speaker, which might get a bit tedious and annoying for all concerned.

Again, this is a very useful tool when coaching or mentoring. It can also be used during feedback sessions in a more formal situation such as a performance review meeting.

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Public Speaking Tips : 10 Strategies to Wow and Win Audiences

10 Strategies to Wow and Win Audiences

good presentations

Speaking in public provides you the opportunity to promote your brand, your company and yourself. It enables you to expand your circle of influence. Yet many people are reluctant to speak before an audience. Here are ten strategies to help you wow and win over audiences, and become a better speaker.

Practice is the key to helping you improve in public speaking.

Join Toastmasters and find a club that you like to practise your speeches in a friendly environment. You are welcome to visit our Kampong Ubi Toastmasters Club if you are living in Singapore.

——

Power Speaking – 10 Strategies to Wow and Win Audiences
By Dawne Simmons

You know the feeling. Your mouth dries. Your palms moisten. Your heartbeat pounds in your ears. Butterflies swoop and soar in your stomach. What’s the cause? You’re about to give a speech. Several studies report that public speaking ranks top among people’s fears. Yet, public speaking also affords you the opportunity to promote your brand, your company and yourself. It enables you to expand your circle of influence. More importantly, public speaking remains a powerful communication tool for your strategic business messages. Here are 10 tips to help you wow and win your audiences, and become a better public speaker.

1. Have something to say. Sounds simple enough. Yet too many speakers merely present encyclopedic reports of facts and figures. Take a stand. Express an opinion. Put your facts in context.

2. Use gentle humor. No, this is not the time to practice your stand-up routine. Try instead to use humorous stories and anecdotes. They can evoke smiles that relax your audience and make them more receptive to your message.

3. Share your personal experiences. You’ve been invited to speak because of your knowledge about a subject. Your experiences – both the successes and stumbles, as well as what you’ve learned from each – add an important human touch.

4. Stay within your allotted time – or even shorter. On the subject of making speeches, Franklin Roosevelt once advised, “Be sincere; be brief; be seated.” Your audience will appreciate your consideration of their time.

5. Allow your personality to shine. Everyone has a personal style – especially you. Allow your manner of speaking to reflect the real you. Are you soft spoken with understated wit? Then don’t try to emulate Carol Burnett or Eddie Murphy. Are you an extrovert with lots of pizzazz? Then it’s a mistake to take on the persona of Queen Elizabeth or Mother Teresa. Make sure it’s your personality that shines in the limelight.

6. Engage your entire body. Use hand gestures, eye contact and facial expressions to get your point across. Whenever possible, move around the stage. Vary your voice with stage whispers or muted yells. Your speech must be more than a dry recitation of facts and opinions. Effective public speaking is a performance that engages the audience. They will appreciate your efforts to keep them entertained.

7. Research your audience. Why is your subject important to them? How will the issue affect their lives? Knowing the answer to those questions enables you to tailor your presentation to the audience’s specific needs.

8. Understand your goals. How do you want your audience to feel after your conclusion? Speeches have the power to persuade, inform, inspire, entertain or move your audience to action. Tailor your remarks to meet both your goals and the audiences’.

9. Practice, practice, practice. Whether you use a full written text, talking points or brief notes, rehearse your remarks. Mark Twain explained that it took him more than three weeks to prepare an impromptu speech. Don’t just read it silently. Speak it aloud. This gives you the opportunity to time your talk and to change words or phrases that trip you up. An added bonus: Practice enables you to transform your anxiety into a poised high-energy performance.

10. Enjoy yourself. Your attitude determines whether public speaking presents stumbling blocks or stepping-stones. Have fun. The more speaking opportunities you accept, the better you’ll become. Like any roller coaster ride, public speaking provides both chills and thrills. Climb aboard. The experience is worth the trip.

© 2009 WordStorm Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Dawne Y. Simmons is president and founder of WordStorm Communications, Inc. With more than 20 years of experience in all areas of corporate communications, she assists company leaders develop and promote their strategic messages. For the last 10 years, she has written speeches, presentations, scripts and other business materials for high-level executives in the corporate, government and not-for-profit sectors. An award-winning speaker, Ms. Simmons assists executives improve their on-stage presence. She provides confidential, private coaching sessions that help business leaders quickly improve their presentation skills.

Be sure to visit her website at http://www.wordstormcom.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Dawne_Simmons
http://EzineArticles.com/?Power-Speaking—10-Strategies-to-Wow-and-Win-Audiences&id=2793526

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