Is What You’re Saying Listenable?

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ThinkstockPhotos-77740194We’ve all had those experiences where someone starts talking to us and we aren’t quite tuned in. The person is well into their story when we have to stop them and ask them to start over … from the beginning.

A listener has to be ready before they can hear what you have to say.

How can you, as the speaker, ensure that your listener is ready to listen?

  1. Listen. Start considering if you have a reputation for truly listening well to others. By giving your undivided attention when someone is talking to you—summarizing their points, asking for more details, stopping what you’re doing— you’re demonstrating respect, suggests “Most people automatically want to hear what someone who seems interested in them might have to say.”
  2. Consider how your implicit knowledge is different from your listener’s. You’re trying to tell someone something. Given your unique set of experiences and knowledge (implicit knowledge), the concept may seem simple. Does your listener have these same experiences and knowledge? Without this shared understanding, a disconnect is likely.
  3. Organize your message. “Dan, I’d like to talk with you about some recent disappointing customer reviews. I was hoping that we could go over the content of the recent feedback and then together we could come up with some possible ways to avoid this in the future.” Here are some key message organizing points from Marty Brounstein’s Communicating Effectively For Dummies®.
    • State the topic in a clear, concise way. Demonstrate respect for someone’s time by keeping your message simple and straightforward.
    • Provide some background. Briefly summarize the context for the listener. If there is history on the topic, bring the listener up to speed with a few key details.
    • State the goal. If you’re looking for some type of action from the listener, let him or her clearly know.
    • Create an outline. If you’re starting a complicated discussion with someone, outline what you’re covering. (You may even want to jot down the points before you start talking.) “First, …. Then …. Finally ….”
    • Set the tone. If you want open and honest feedback from your listener, be sure to steer clear of accusatory words.
    • If you want some action from the listener, let them know. This type of information clearly lets your listener know what you’re expecting: Input, action, follow-up, etc. 
  4. GettyImages-829041980cropWhen possible, understand why what you’re saying matters to the listener. Why should your listener care? Consider your message from the listener’s perspective. This is especially important if you’re giving a presentation or discussing something complicated where your listeners might not immediately see the relevance to themselves or may think they already know what you’re going to say. Seeing things from your listener’s perspective will mean that your message might vary slightly depending on who you’re talking to, suggests Considering this “sense of meaning” will get the attention you need to be heard. In the example using Dan outlined in point 3 above, you could alter the conversation by saying, “Dan, I want you to be a customer service superstar.” 

The business world is filled with miscommunication—expectations that are misunderstood, directions that aren’t followed, clients whose expectations aren’t met …. Communication disconnects happen all the time, because each of us explains something in a way that seems perfectly clear to us to someone who’s not ready to listen. Avoid this disconnect by making sure your listener is ready to hear and what you’re saying is listenable.

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Agree? Disagree? Add your insightful comments here.