It is axiomatic that you can’t listen while you are talking. Unfortunately, most of us spend more time talking than we do listening. Why do we talk so much?
To communicate with purpose
Because everyone else is talking
We have an urge to talk
We want attention
Sometimes, we just don’t know.
Are you one of those who needs to dominate a conversation? Do you jump in and interrupt or block other’s attempts to talk? If these are habits you need to break, you need to W.A.I.T.
Ask yourself, “Why Am ITalking?”
If there’s no conclusive answer. Stop!
To be a better listener, eliminate these bad habits:
Interrupting the speaker.
Not looking at the speaker.
Rushing the speaker and making him feel that he’s wasting the listener’s time.
Showing interest in something other than the conversation.
Getting ahead of the speaker and finishing her thoughts.
Not responding to the speaker’s requests.
Saying, “Yes, but . . .,” as if the listener has made up his mind.
Topping the speaker’s story with “That reminds me. . .” or “That’s nothing, let me tell you about. . .”
Forgetting what was talked about previously.
Asking too many questions about details.
Be Attentive: Eliminate distractions and focus on the speaker. This includes distractions of ego, your agenda, and judgements.
Listen beyond the words. Tone of voice, pace and pitch, body language are all clues to the speaker’s state. Pay attention to the nonverbal cues.
Put your ego aside. Let go of your need to control a conversation. Ask discovery questions to fully understand the speaker; let them take you where they want to go. Be engaged, but not in control. Let the speaker finish then wait before responding.
Be open to new ideas. During a conversation where new ideas are being discussed, it is easy to listen to argue. Don’t be threatened. Listen to learn.
It’s easy to compound our innate fear of public speaking by delivering a really bad presentation. There’s nothing worse than fighting the nervous butterflies in your stomach and seeing the glazed-eyes look of your audience as you slowly bore them to tears.
Don’t abuse your visuals – Usually your visuals are posters, charts, or even a PowerPoint presentation. Whatever your visuals may be, keep them simple and don’t put too many words on them. The audience isn’t there to read your slides, they are there to listen to you present.
Make them laugh – Although you want to educate your audience, you need to make them laugh as well. I learned this from Guy Kawasaki and if you ever hear any of his speeches you’ll understand why. In essence, it keeps the audience alert and they’ll learn more from you than someone who just educates.
Talk to your audience, not at them – People hate it when they get talked at, so don’t do it. You need to interact with your audience and create a conversation. An easy way to do this is to ask them questions as well as letting them ask you questions.
I have one more tip that I’ve had to learn the hard way: Tell stories – People don’t want to sit through a dry recitation of facts, statistics, policy, etc. They want to hear how what you have to say plays out in real life. Learn to tell stories.