The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your communication says Carol Schulte

When you know how to effectively express whatever it is you wish to say with your colleagues, family members, and other important people in your life, everybody wins.

So why does it sometimes seem so incredibly difficult?

We all want to have a voice. To be heard. And yet, are we ensuring we are dishing out what we ourselves are hoping to receive?

If you are looking to improve your assertive abilities, gain greater influence, and enjoy deeper persuasion, you must first master this ONE imperative skill.

You must first improve your ability to listen

I know, I know, you’ve likely heard this before. And for good reason! It’s been said that listening is the most fundamental part of interpersonal communication skills.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, once you learn to master your own listening abilities you will, in turn, be listened to in a whole new way.

We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason.

So, if you want to stand out as the leader you are, it’s often less about you getting your ideas and points across, and more about your ability to hold space for others to share theirs.

Great leaders know there is a time to speak, and there are always times to listen. And those who truly stand out and gain the respect of their colleagues are those that put this notion into practice on a regular basis.

If you think about it, the one who controls the conversation is the one who asks the questions. And the great conversationalists are those that simply ask the questions, and actually listen to the answers.

And if you think about it, focusing solely on listening to the other person removes any pressure you may feel with having to come up with the right things to say!

Here are three simple, effective, and actionable ways to take your listening to the next level.

1. Engage in active listening

Are you truly listening? I mean, are you allowing yourself to be fully engaged in the conversation, with your eyes as well as your ears? And with your full body? Are you totally present in the conversation, or are you allowing distractions like your grocery list get in the way? It may be common sense, and yet it is not always common practice.

Listening is not the same as hearing.

Ready to improve your active listening? Consider the following verbal and non-verbal signs of active listening that shows the other party you are not only fully present with them but are interested and care about what they are saying.

Non-Verbal Signs of Active Listening:

  • Smile
  • Eye Contact
  • Posture
  • Mirroring
  • No distraction

Verbal Signs of Active Listening:

  • Positive Reinforcement
  • Remembering
  • Questioning
  • Reflection
  • Summarization

2. Let them vent

The reason most people vent is because they simply want to be able to express how they truly feel, and they want these feelings to be heard.

Give them the time and the space for them to be able to do so!

Research shows no one will go on longer than 90 seconds when they have something to vent about. So, resist the desire to interrupt. Instead, give them the floor to get it all out, and once they are through, they will be ready to enter into a proper conversation with you.

They will not only be so appreciative of you holding space for them, they will be willing to do the same for you.

3. Ask open-ended questions

Whether it’s an important, difficult, or trivial conversation, asking questions shows the speaker you are engaged in the conversation. And moreover, it tells them you care about what is being said and want to learn more. Following up with open-ended questions specifically expresses how well you not only listened, but heard what was said, and that you care to learn more.

So, there you have it. If you really want to improve your listening skills, consciously choose to engage in active listening, allow whoever you are speaking with to get out whatever may be on their mind, and ask open-ended questions.

Once you master your ability to truly listen (which some argue makes up 90% of your communication) you will not only gain greater respect within the workplace, you will also enjoy the influence you desire, and gain the respect you deserve.

Carol Schulte is the founder of The Brave Initiative, a global empowerment catalyst. Her portfolio includes Fortune 500 corporations and international associations, inspiring individuals to get their brave on! She is committed to building braver leaders ... (Read More)

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