We all know what it’s like when a meeting doesn’t go smoothly. Discussions get derailed, tempers start to fray, and things are seldom resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. In such situation, problem is often result of poor communication—and poor communication is frequently caused by poor listening.
Fortunately, there are some simple techniques which can be used to mitigate this problem. The most basic of these is called “active listening.” Now, I know what you’re thinking; this sounds like some goofy technique that simply states obvious and wastes one’s time. The problem, however, is that most people consider themselves to be good listeners, but very few actually are.
An active listener does three important things:
First, he looks and sounds interested in speaker. This requires looking directly at speaker, maintaining eye contact if possible. By doing so, we let speakers know that we are genuinely interested in what they have to say. (Admittedly, in many Western cultures, too much eye contact can make speaker feel self-conscious. The key is to strike a balance, giving speaker enough attention to convey understanding and interest.) It also helps to use vocalizations such as "uh-huh" and "yes" to encourage speakers to continue.
Second, an active listener strives to adopt speaker's viewpoint. Try to see things from her point of view—especially if you find yourself disagreeing! Avoid interrupting or finishing that person’s sentences. Even if you disagree, try to suppress your initial reactions and respond from speaker's frame of reference, not your own. Expressing dissent too quickly can be disastrous, if one has not properly understood a colleague’s point of view. Of course, it may be necessary to express disagreement—perhaps even strong contention—but one shouldn't do that without thoroughly understanding speaker's point of view.