Want to present clearly? Here’s the first step — listen actively!
The ability to present your message clearly is key if you want to communicate effectively – orally or in writing. Presenting your message clearly increases the likelihood that you will be understood and that others will accept your ideas. In addition, the ability to express your ideas well is a career asset. With so much to grasp in today’s hectic workplace, others notice and really appreciate someone who can say what needs to be said – no more and no less – in a crisp, easy to comprehend manner.
But here’s the key, communicating with precision and presenting clearly typically require that you develop a deep understanding of what’s actually “going on” — the issues, the facts, the opinions, and all of the other key “ingredients.” To do this you need to listen — you need to have good active listening skills.
Here are the keys to becoming an effective active listener:
- Prepare to listen.
Make a commitment to listen effectively, and then focus your physical and mental energy on the speaker’s words. Set listening goals by deciding in advance what you want to find out from a speaker, and then give the speaker your full attention.
- Keep an open mind.
Suspend judgment about a speaker’s ideas and listen to the speaker’s entire statement before preparing a response or rebuttal. Recognize your biases, question assumptions, and avoid jumping to conclusions.
- Stay focused on what the other person is saying.
Resist the tendency to be distracted by the speaker’s voice or vocal “mannerisms”. As the speaker is talking, mentally paraphrase what has been said. Compose a mental outline of what the speaker is saying, identifying the main ideas as well as other key points. While you listen, take notes to help you stay focused.
- Avoid “rapport-breakers.”
Acknowledge the speaker’s emotions or situation without moralizing or belittling the speaker’s feelings. For example, don’t contradict speakers by telling them what they “really” feel (vs. what they say they feel).
- Ask questions to gather information and to clarify and confirm your understanding of it.
Clarify the speakers’ statements when you need additional information or a more complete explanation. Confirm when you think you understand, and want to make sure. Do this by restating your understanding, and then checking back. Use paraphrasing to confirm your understanding of what someone has said.
- Assume responsibility for successful communication.
Do not hesitate to ask questions when the information you receive is incomplete – or unclear. Clarify and confirm your understanding of what has been said, and provide appropriate feedback to help a speaker to rephrase or expand on the message until you understand it.