Are You Hearing or Listening?

A mentor once told me that when meeting people, often we think we hear what others are saying when in reality we are playing both sides of the conversation, anticipating what is being said versus listening to what is actually being said.

I’ve always been drawn to this theory. As someone who has worked in a customer service related capacity for the better part of twenty years I’ve had many conversations. When I have experienced situations where I was fairly knowledgeable I catch my mind wandering within the conversation and have to consistently practice active listening.

I also test if others are actively listening to me regularly in my conversations. How? You ask? Here’s my trick:

When you meet someone for the first time, or when you’re seeing an old friend, it’s common to greet them with the phrase, “Hi! How are you/How have you been?” Customarily, this will elicit a like response, “I’m good/great, and you?” This is where the conversation can go awry. Try, just once, not asking the second question: “and you?” You’ll find, often, that people will have anticipated the question, and will respond without hesitation.

While we want to remain friendly and inquire how our friends and new acquaintances are, we also want to be heard, and we want our friends and business contacts to be genuine and listen intently. Think about it the next time you’re asked “How are you?” or “How have you been?” Are you truly listening to the answer or just passing the time until you get to speak again?

(Used under Creative Commons, Thank you: Sfllaw!)

There are so many ways to be present in your conversations, offers some great tips on how to practice some effective active listening techniques:

  • Consciously schedule or set aside time when you next have a conversation with someone so you will not be rushed or hurried. Be realistic about how long you need and avoid scheduling anything to close to your time with that person. (Translated: Don’t be rushed, give yourself plenty of time.)
  • Review what you know about this person and what they are talking about in your head silently while they are speaking. Keep a mental list of things you want to talk about or inquire about when they finish speaking. (Translated: Prepare for your meetings or interactions whenever possible, know what information you need or objectives you wish to accomplish.)
  • Ensure that you are in a quiet and comfortable area during your conversation. Make sure the person you are talking to is comfortable, and be receptive to the person. (Translated: Create an environment that facilitates open communication. Actively engage their statements.)
  • Continue to focus on what the other person is saying. Give non-verbal cues for understanding like nodding or, if you don’t understand, frowning to help them know if you are understanding what they are saying. (Translated: Remind yourself to stay engaged, don’t think about your next appointment, what’s going on with your last transaction, or problems you’re having with short sale. Provide clues that you’re in agreement or disagreement with what’s being said.)
  • Respond to questions if you are elicited to do so. Find a natural pause in their speech to interject and ask them if they were finished before you interrupt. (Translated: Don’t step on the heels of a statement, respond thoughtfully to questions.)

Read more: How to Practice Active Listening |

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