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Whether you’re interviewing with a potential employer, meeting with a client or giving a project update to your boss whether you’re successful or not depends in large part on your communication skills.
Unfortunately, most people think of communication as talking or writing. They think primarily about getting their message across to the other person. This is a big mistake.
The key to being a great communicator is to learn to listen. Understanding what the other person is thinking will help you tailor your message to their needs. This is the best way for you to succeed. Become a better listener by using these three techniques today.
Focus on the other person
Remember the last time you tried to carry on a conversation with someone who was looking around the room or checking his watch? Imagine what it’s like for a potential employer.
Let’s say Joe is interviewing with Susan the marketing manager at ABC Company. Joe is prepared. He carefully explains why he wants the job and what he can do for the company. Trouble is Susan notices that Joe frequently looks down or gazes out the window. She finds it difficult to take Joe seriously.
Naturally, you’ll want to avert your gaze from time to time in order to avoid starring. Try to do this while still focusing on the other person. Practice maintaining eye contact with friends and colleagues. Soon you’ll feel comfortable in any situation.
Stop thinking about you
I once read a quote from Ed Howe, “No man would listen to you talk if he didn’t know it was his turn next.” While this seems a bit harsh, I believe that there is probably an element of truth to it.
At one time or another, everyone has been guilty of planning a response while the other person is still talking. Maybe you’re meeting with an important client, eagerly waiting to answer her question. Be careful. Don’t be so eager to dazzle her with your knowledge that you miss what she’s really asking.
Don’t be afraid of silence. Practice taking a few moments to gather your thoughts once the other person has finished speaking.
Pay attention to the music
Make sure you listen to the music. You’ll hear it in the other person’s tone of voice. Do the words and tone agree? It’s like seeing a fake smile. When someone truly smiles her eyes sparkle and her face lights up. When someone “puts on” a smile only the corners of her mouth turn up.
The next time you’re in a meeting listen to the words AND the music. There’s a difference between “OK, I’ll take care of it” and “OK, I’ll take care of it!” Make sure that you’re getting the right message.
Many philosophers have suggested that we have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak. That’s great advice for everyone who wants to develop better communication skills.
Being a good listener is more than being there while someone is speaking. Being a good listener means hearing and understanding the message that’s being sent.
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