Imagine yourself confidently walking into a scheduled meeting, you have prepared an amazing presentation, but once you get started, it is clear no one seems to be paying much attention. They all seem to be preoccupied with other things as if your words mean nothing to them. This is pretty devastating!

Listening is an art that requires work, self-discipline, and skill. The art of communication solely lies in knowing when to listen as it does from knowing how to use words well. Ask any good salesperson or negotiator about the value of silence.

Basic communication is the process of sharing information. However, most communicators overlook the ‘sharing’ part by thinking communication is a one-way street and the most neglected part of any verbal communication is listening. If you are the culprit or have found yourself in this situation then please pay attention.
Communication is a two-way street. A message has to be received by the recipient in the same manner that it has been delivered. You may be the most eloquent speaker, but all is lost if the person or persons being addressed show little sign of listening.

At this point, it is also important to note that ‘hearing’ is different from ‘listening’.

In personal as well as professional settings, listening is a crucial communication tool, because it reflects your capacity to care and act on the words being said. At the workplace, instructions have to be followed and issues discussed interactively.

On the other hand, there are people who are good speakers but unfortunately talk too much, interrupt others in mid-sentence and are aggressive in forcing their points of view. Such people rarely listen, causing resentment which often leads others to become distracted or create excuses to get up and leave.

In short, verbal communication is just a one way street for them. It must be said, however, that listening is an acquired skill but easy to learn once your heart is it. Just pay attention while someone else is speaking.

A good communicator listens ‘actively’. Nod your head, maintain eye contact, do not interrupt, but you can ask relevant questions to clarify your doubts. Some may suggest these are tricks of the trade, but nonetheless useful as a listener. Listen with empathy. Sometimes although it is not considered polite, you can repeat what the speaker is saying to show that you have fully understood.

Now, if you happen to be the speaker then it helps to change your expressions and use other non-verbal communication like touching and shaking your head whenever appropriate. A good listener instils confidence and trust in others. In addition, it is important to note that in communication, trust and confidence are key to both you and the client.

The other thing is that plenty of lasting friendships arise from people seeking out a good listener to share their problems and seek advice and counselling. So one may ask what about that presentation mentioned earlier on? Perhaps you the presenter were talking to the wrong audience!

About the Author: Birungi Faith

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