Week 8

8.01 - Active Listening

Do you demonstrate good listening skills? Listening is a critical component of effective communication…whether it is at work, in an interview, with friends, family, or even on a date.

What is the difference between listening and hearing? Hearing is a passive activity. Our ears detect the signals and deliver the sound impulses to our brain. Even if we can hear, we many not be actually listening. Listening is a more complex process that requires attention, desire, and interpretation. How often do you hear noise, but ignore it, or hear someone talking, but tune them out?

Active listening requires selective attention to what is being said as well as observing the non-verbal cues to receive additional information. For example, someone may say they want to meet with you, but may provide other indications with tone of voice or body language that they may not actually mean what they say. Watch for non-verbal signals that may convey discrepancies in the message:

  • Is the person maintaining eye contact?
  • Do they appear sincere?
  • Does their smile or facial expression match the message they are trying to convey?
  • Is their tone of voice consistent with the message?
  • Do they appear open to you or are they crossing their arms over their chest or fidgeting in a nervous manner?

Active listening not only helps us interpret better, it also conveys our sincere involvement with the speaker. In addition, this critical skill helps a conversation flow. Let’s see the ways to show that you are a good listener:

  • Stop what you are doing to give undivided attention to the speaker. This means put your smartphone away, turn off the TV, and avoid looking at your watch.
  • Maintain eye contact as the other person is speaking.
  • Smile or give appropriate facial expressions.
  • Turn off your emotional filters, e.g., if you had a rough morning or have preconceived feelings about a topic, don’t let that influence your ability to listen to the content.
  • Avoid judging the speaker, e.g., if you don’t approve of the speaker’s lifestyle choices or values, don’t let that influence your listening ability.
  • Nod to acknowledge verbally that you are following what they say, even if you don’t necessarily agree!
  • Lean towards the speaker to show interest.
  • Avoid interrupting or completing the speaker’s sentences.
  • Paraphrase what they are saying to make sure you understand.
  • Repeat their last statement to keep the conversation flowing, e.g., “You went to the meeting in Atlanta?”
  • Ask questions that are related to the topic. A complete topic shift will clearly indicate that you are not paying attention.

We often focus on becoming good speakers. However, communication involves being a good speaker and listener. How can we improve this? Record your end of a telephone conversation. Listen to hear if you are interrupting, offering verbal acknowledgment as you listen (“uh-huh,” “yes,” “I see,” etc.), or responding appropriately. Excellent communication skills, both listening and speaking, will help us in our social, personal, and professional interactions.


8.02 - Telephone Skills

In today’s global workplace, we often conduct business by telephone and never meet our client or colleagues face-to-face. Numerous preliminary job interviews are conducted on the telephone; some with web cameras and some without. Many of our clients who have foreign accents claim that telephone communication is very challenging since they don’t have the body language and facial expression to help communicate their message and they cannot "read" the listener's reactions.


Here are some tips for using the telephone:

  • Smile
  • Stop what you are doing before you pick up the receiver (talking to co-workers, laughing)
  • Use a friendly greeting, e.g. Hello, Good morning (be aware if you are speaking to people around the world)
  • Identify yourself and your organization (if it is work-related). Don’t assume they know who you are, even if they have Caller ID
  • Ask if it is a convenient time
  • Monitor your tone of voice and rate of speech
  • Eliminate distractions (eating, drinking, email, computer use, texting)
  • Be a good listener; don’t interrupt and periodically respond with acknowledgement (okay, uh-huh, I see)
  • Consider what message you are communicating if you choose to use a speakerphone (too busy? multi-tasking?)
  • Use an appropriate closing; plan for follow-up

Contact us at Successfully Speaking for information about our workshops and training.


8.03 - Networking

You may be attending many holiday parties and events. Amidst all of the frenzy, will you remember peoples’ names…will you remember your keys… will you leave the house without important items…will you remember important meetings? Our memory is frequently challenged, particularly when we are under stress.

I was driving down the highway in my Saturn when I hit a tree and broke my side view mirror. The electrodes under my hood fell to the ground. Why is this important?… These two sentences helped me remember five unrelated words. Watch this TED talk by Peter Dolittle, professor of Educational Psychology at Virginia Tech to learn more about working memory.


Working Memory

Working memory or short term memory, as defined by Wikipedia, is “the system that actively holds multiple pieces of transitory information in the mind, where they can be manipulated.”

Our working memory is needed to store new information, to process it, and to retrieve it as needed. Memory may be challenged for multiple reasons. First of all, as we get older, it becomes increasingly difficult to remember new information unless we use strategies. Secondly, when we multi-task and take on many projects, we may become overwhelmed and forgetful. Finally, stress, fatigue, and distractibility also compromises our memory.

We need to use working memory to maintain a conversation, to remember names, to problem solve, to evaluate information, and to remember our daily tasks. Most importantly, we must pay attention to new circumstances so was can develop strategies. When we go shopping, how do we remember the items? We can write them down, use visualization or imagery (where they appear in the store), mnemonic devices (MEB can stand for Milk, Eggs, and Bread), or even rehearsal (repeating the few items over and over). Each of us may have our own preferences.


The Memory Palace

Working memory doesn’t WORK unless we pay conscious attention to save that information. We must make a commitment to be engaged. When we attend networking events and want to remember people’s names, how do we do it? Watch this video from Business Insider to gain some tips.


"Networking" Fundamental Principles - Part 1

"Networking" Fundamental Principles- Part 2


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