Thursday, August 20, 2015

How Good Are Your Listening Skills?

Many disputes can be resolved with good communication skills.  If we would consider the impact of our words on others, we might not say them at all. When we are not thinking clearly because we are angry, that’s when words spew out of our mouths with little consideration.    Everyone knows it’s impossible to retract words once they have been spoken out loud.  

You would think that we put our vocal chords to good use and speak far more any other mode of communication.  Yet according to this chart, 70% of our communicating is spent listening compared to speaking, reading, or writing.  Because listening is one of the skills we use the most, perfecting this skill now has a heightened importance. 
Based on the research of: Adler, R., Rosenfeld, L. and Proctor, R. (2001)
Interplay: the process of interpersonal communicating (8th edn), Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt.

Whatever skills we want to improve, we look for resources to help us.  We don’t necessarily need a university degree on a particular subject but certainly some pointers are helpful. SkillsYouNeed, an international web-based service founded in the heart of Wales, a rural part of the United Kingdom, provides valuable insight on this topic.  A practical and useful list, 10 principles of listening, has been compiled to hone our skills.  For expanded information on each principle, click here.

1. Stop Talking.  “If we were supposed to talk more than we listen we would have two tongues and one ear.” Mark Twain.

2.  Prepare Yourself to Listen. Relax.

3.  Put the Speaker at Ease. Help the speaker to feel free to speak.

4.  Remove Distractions. Focus on what is being said.

5.  Empathize. Try to understand the other person’s point of view.

6.  Be Patient.  A pause, even a long pause, does not necessarily mean that the speaker has finished.

7.  Avoid Personal Prejudice. Try to be impartial.

8.  Listen to the Tone.  Volume and tone both add meaning to what someone is saying.

9.  Listen for Ideas – Not Just Words.  You need to get the whole picture, not just isolated bits and pieces.

10. Wait and Watch for Non-Verbal Communication. Gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements can all be important.

As you read through this information, you may be thinking, “I don’t get it!  What does this have to do with finances?"  Well, as a matter-of-fact, listening has everything to do with finances and financial planning. When your spouse shares their goals, dreams and aspirations, are your listening ears turned on?  When you need to have a family meeting to discuss your farm succession plan, are you prepared to listen attentively to family members’ views?  When your partner is justifying why you should agree to purchase the cottage or boat, are you patient or impatient?  

A money matter is not the only issue where you are trying to convince others to accept your point of view. Perhaps the importance lies in listening to others’ concerns in the attempt to understand rather than to be understood.  Here’s your challenge.  If your listening skills need “some” work, pick one or two of the principles and apply them in your daily conversations.  See if you can become a better listener.  Pay attention to the results. You may be pleasantly surprised.    

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