Recently I attended some seminars at the MagNet Conference. I was there to learn from seasoned industry professionals, but sitting at seminars is no longer a familiar activity for me. Sitting in front of my computer screen, interviewing clients on the phone, attending networking events is the norm for me. This experience reminded me of the importance of listening as a communication tool.
At seminars, business meetings, or dinner conversations, communication needs to be two-way. During my university days, I had to take notes to get anything out of a lecture. Without the notes, everything just went over my head, or in one ear and out the other. Math just bounced off, no matter what I did! I did graduate so I guess the note taking worked. By paraphrasing what I heard, I could distill the important information. This process enabled me to understand concepts.
Sue Horner recently blogged about the IABC world conference in Toronto. She told me notetaking helps to keep her focused on the topic. She obviously took great notes. Thanks Sue for your sharing your experience at the conference.
While sitting with 50 or more participants facing a speaker, I was taking notes. Yes, there were handouts, but I needed to distill the information in my own way. I had to take some action; make a concerted effort to process what I was hearing.
Making eye contact with the presenter and responding to what was being said helped me become more engaged and focused on the topic. As a presenter, I always appreciate it when the audience indicates they are at least hearing what I am saying. This two-way communication inspires the presenter and engages the audience. At one session my response started with a nod of my head, grew to a smile and then outright laughter when Dorothea Helms explained that she uses a headset when on the phone and types notes while interviewing subject matter experts. She said, “I’d rather have every one of my body parts pierced before I would transcribe a tape.” (I know what she means. My preference is to take notes and tape record interviews. I keep the digital tape file for reference to get exact quotes if necessary.) My point is that you need to be engaged in the topic and participate in some active way to listen effectively.
As a business writer, I must listen to learn about my customers and their business. Sometimes it is hard for businesses to write effective content for their web sites because they fail to see their business from their customers’ eyes. We all need to listen to our customers to communicate.
Steven Covey says in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, empathic listening means, “listening with the intent to understand…seeking first to understand.” Covey insists “empathic listening involves more than registering, reflecting, or even understanding the words that are said… You listen with ears, but you also, and more importantly, you listen with your eyes and with your heart.” In the field of corporate communications listening must be more than a skill.
Listening is communicating. Are you a good listener? Check out an online test of your listening skills. How can you improve the way you listen to clients, colleagues, friends and family?