Effective Listening

Effective listening is a very important skill for everybody who works with customers and an absolute must when developing and implementing a Quality, Safety, Environmental or Integrated Management System. It is also an essential component of the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) continual improvement process.

Unless you are working all alone, you will have internal or external customers to communicate with, or most likely both. Here are some tips for effective listening.

Reason for listening
An individual should know and understand why they are listening. They should have a definite purpose in mind and that is to understand what the other person is trying to convey. Here is some more information on Active listening: http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm
While listening, it is better not to be thinking about responses, this distracts from listening to what the content of the speaker’s message is.
Body language
A person should listen to the other’s words AND the tone of voice AND notice the body language. This includes non-verbal signs – the messages that are sent without words. Non-verbal communication tips can be found at http://psychology.about.com/od/nonverbalcommunication/tp/nonverbaltips.htm
Give feedback, respond to the person. The best listening also involves talking, as others respond verbally to what they hear.
A comment which confirms that a speaker has been heard and understood is better than just a nod of the head or a ‘yep’.
Ideally, the other’s question or statement should be rephrased, then followed by a question or comment.
For more information on Feedback click here: http://www.personneltoday.com/articles/2004/04/13/23216/feedback-how-to-giveandreceive
Show empathy: active listening is like using one ear to listen to meaning and the other to listen to feelings. Show that another’s point of view is understood, if not necessarily agreed with.
Find out more about showing empathy at http://eqi.org/empathy.htm
Offer support for people who are shy or nervous – their contribution is important.
Try to match their mood in words, tone and/or body posture to other people’s moods unless they are negative or hostile.
Listen to the whole message: you should not assume you’ve heard it all before, or what is being said is not important.
You should attempt to put the other person at ease, then relax yourself: helping people relax encourages them to talk. People who are impatient or stressed will listen less effectively.
Be positive
Look for positive points: judge the message, not the person.
Often we have too much difficulty listening to other people because:

  • We ‘know’ what we are going to hear•
  • We are seeking confirmation, not information
  • What’s being said is getting in the way of what needs be said
  • We are judging the person before they even speak by the way they look.