Lend me your ears

I watched a  TED video (Julian Treasure: 5 ways to listen better) the other day that got me thinking about communication skills.

Everybody knows that excellent communication skills are a “must have” if you are going to be a highly successful Business Analyst.

Communication skills development tends to concentrate on speaking, writing, and presenting, with little attention paid to the other essential ingredient in the verbal communication equation – listening.  Have you ever thought about listening as a skill?   Surely it’s just something we all do passively, instinctively, automatically.  

Most people don’t even think about it at all, let alone see it as a specific skill that can be developed & improved with practice.

If you accept that listening is a skill then it follows that it can be learned & improved. But what can you do to improve it, and why would you bother?

One way is to regularly practice “Active Listening”.  Active listening is a communication tool that can help individuals speak to each other more clearly and more importantly be understood.  The basic idea is that, as you listen to somebody (your client, your boss) you actively focus on the speaker and pay special attention to understanding exactly what this person says. 

The essential difference from what typically happens in a conversation is that, instead of the speaker just assuming you are listening, you actually focus on what the other person is saying and regularly summarise (paraphrase) what they said, in a way they would agree with.  Not only does this provide the speaker with confirmation that you are listening,  but it also ensures that your whole attention is on what they actually say and mean, as opposed to what you think or want them to say or mean.

So what are the benefits of Active Listening?  It should help you to better understand a situation from your clients perspective, avoid misunderstandings (not that we ever have many of those!), and more importantly build rapport & trust with you clients.  Overall,  you will have more fruitful meetings & conversations.

If you have never given your listening skills a workout, I suggest you give Active Listening a try & see what happens.

Before doing so you should watch the TED video  (only 7.5 minutes of your time) as it includes  a version of Active Listening (called RASA) and many other suggestions on how to develop you listening skills more generally.

I would be interested to hear how you get on.

Mike Eckersley

Independent Business & Technology Consultant

Email:  mje@bcs.org.uk

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