Listening is one of the critical aspects of interpersonal skills. Your interaction with the management, colleagues or with clients requires a fair amount of listening. It helps to understand the speaker’s perspective and plan your response accordingly. However, it is one of the most neglected aspects of all forms of office communication. Employees must have asked themselves ‘Have I said it right, did I pronounce the word correctly or did the client understand correctly?’ But the times employees ask themselves ‘Did I listen correctly?’ are far fewer. The result, misunderstood concepts, corrections and missed deadlines.
While discussing critical information, employees need to cross-check the information that they receive through verbal communication. That is achieved through paraphrasing. Do not hesitate to ask the speaker ‘This is the statement you have said, am I right?’ That will ensure you have the correct information and will also satisfy the speaker that you have understood the spoken instructions correctly. According to corporate trainers, one of the primary causes for missed deadlines in projects is failure to listen and verify instructions at the first instance.
The blame game: Major fallout of poor listening is conflicts within a team that result in the germination of blame game. Talk to your colleagues if you have any queries regarding a task and get the details right. This is least embarrassing to do compared to getting it wrong from the word go and facing the consequences. Often employees hesitate to ask or get doubts cleared. This manifests to incorrect completion of assigned tasks and when things go wrong as they most certainly will, the blame game starts.
Take notes: One of the best practices while listening to instructions or attending meetings is to take notes. Jot down the important points. There is no best method to do this, the only criterion being you should be able to understand and process the instructions when you get down to initiating the task. Follow this simple idea and you will notice that you will complete your end of the tasks correctly and within the deadline.
Talk to colleagues: On occasions your team might be asked to present their status of a project. Each team member might be needed to present his share of the work to the management or to the client. In such scenarios talk to your colleagues about the presentation and what is expected of you. Listening to the instructions and the requirements for the presentations will help you to be prepared. Failure to listen to instructions will not only impact the team but will also create undesired impressions about the team.
However, listening alone may not suffice to end blame game in a team, or taking notes alone might not help in completing a task. Use any verbal or non-verbal communication techniques to show that you are listening to what is being said. For instance, nodding, smiling, quick response to questions during a speech are all traits of an active listener. It encourages the speaker to continue or pause to get a quick feedback. However, restraint must be exercised to ensure that the speaker is not interrupted and that questions are asked when time is given for that. Also, you can seek permission to ask questions. This way, you can get a full understanding of the message and there will be no scope for wrong communication of ideas and perspectives.
Thus listening forms a critical part of interpersonal skills and helps in understanding the speaker’s perspective. In team work, active listening eliminates misunderstanding of ideas and helps in completing tasks within deadlines.