“He who guards his mouth preserves his life.” - Proverbs 13:3

Have you ever been in a one-sided conversation? The other person is talking incessantly, leaving no room for you to speak. How about this scenario: You are conversing with someone and you feel very distracted and unfocused? You have so many thoughts in your head that your brain becomes overloaded and you’re only getting bits and pieces of what the other person is saying. We hear words and see people’s mouths moving, but we are not really listening to what they are saying. The other person begins to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher!

One of the greatest challenges for busy professionals today is to be good listeners, especially with the barrage of emails, phone calls, meetings and various distractions throughout the day. Listening to others is the most difficult part of communication because we often have a desire to express our own ideas, opinions and perspectives. After all, what we have to say is important. True, but timing is everything.

Astute listening not only demonstrates mastery of a critically important communication skill, it shows that you CARE. Others know when we are not listening to them. In fact, it’s uncomfortable, disrespectful and rude to the person that is speaking. A team leader that does not actively listen during conversations loses the respect of others, bringing their credibility in to question. The result is an unmotivated and disconnected team with marginal results.

Try these 7 tips on “tuning in” when having meetings, appointments and conversations:

1. Make time to center yourself. If you feel scattered or preoccupied, take a few deep breaths and clear your mind of everything else so you can focus fully and be present. Affirm out loud, “I am now highly focused.”

2. Do not multi-task. Your brain cannot fully focus on one thing while thinking about or doing something else. If you are in your office, don’t survey the contents of your inbox, check your to-do list and never answer your phone unless you are expecting an urgent call and you’ve let the person know beforehand. Allowing distractions demonstrates that you are disorganized, unprepared and disengaged.

3. Make eye contact with relaxed, attentive eyes. It shows the other person that you have their full attention. Looking away or breaking eye contact often will make the person uneasy. On phone conversations, try closing your eyes when you don’t have to take notes. You will be amazed at your listening skills without visual distractions to pull your attention away.

4. Hold back the urge to speak. Let people finish speaking before you respond. Pause for three seconds after you think someone is done speaking, especially during tense or sensitive conversations.

5. Never cut someone off mid-sentence unless there is a compelling reason such as the agenda has segued to another topic or someone has been talking way too long. Always be polite.

6. Ask relevant and clarifying questions. This shows that you are interested in the conversation and the person you are speaking with. “Paul, Is there anything else I should know about this client?”

7. Repeat back what you’ve heard. I don’t know of a more effective way to demonstrate that you are actively listening than repeating back what you’ve just heard. “So Michelle, just so I understand what you are saying, let me repeat back what I just heard.”

The most effective people know why God gave them two ears and only one mouth. Those who listen more than they speak get way more valuable information than those who speak more than they listen. So practice tuning in so you don’t get tuned out! Team members, clients and family members, including you, have a strong desire to be heard, so listen up and watch your sales, productivity and relationships soar to new heights. Those in your sphere of influence will notice the change and wonder what you are doing differently!

Author's Bio: 

Chris is Lead Coach at Expect Success Coaching and Training, the premier coaching and training company on the planet. For more than a decade, we have helped thousands of individuals achieve unprecedented levels of success in their careers, finances and personal lives. To learn more about us, please visit www.ExpectSuccessCoaching.com