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Are you actually listening to me or planning tonight’s meal?


Trying to get an important point across and feeling like you’re not being listened to can be extremely frustrating. I was having a discussion with a colleague last week and knew full well that he was already forming a reply before I’d had a chance to get my point across and finish my sentence. In that situation, what can make you feel even worse, can be the listener’s apparent lack of attention to what you’re saying, that leaves you thinking that their focus is not on the issue you have about the ridiculously short time frame you feel you’ve been given to hand in that all important project, but whether they should cook meatballs or lasagne for dinner with the beef defrosting at home in the fridge. 

 To truly listen to someone takes skill. Life can be chaotic. Multi-tasking is often a necessity, and finding the time to give someone your full attention when they have important issues to discuss, can be extremely difficult. Unfortunately, the result of not listening properly in business can lead to potentially costly misunderstandings and mistakes, not to mention the frustration this may cause the person on the receiving end.

 Employee engagement is about good communication. A simple but extremely effective communication technique to implement in business is reflective listening. This skill set is an effectual way to communicate, that ensures we hear what is actually being said, and not our interpretation of what we think is being said. In short, reflective listening is paraphrasing what the other person is saying.  It’s important to note here that you don’t parrot what is said. Parroting involves repeating verbatim what the other person has said.  This can leave them feeling that you’re not truly listening to them and therefore not as engaged as you could be. Paraphrasing however, enables you to understand the point they are trying to make by clarifying it verbally, thereby indicating in your response, that you have heard what they are saying and are therefore fully engaged with them.   

Reflective listening is about responding to, rather than leading the other person. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. After all, we all love to feel that we can give some helpful advice to a friend or colleague in need. The objective however is not for the responsive listener to take responsibility for the problem posed, that responsibility lies with the person bringing the issue to light. As the responsive listener, your aim should be to encourage the other person to build on the thoughts and feelings they have, and encourage them through reflective listening to delve in a little deeper to find their own solution.

 I’m not the world’s best listener, but having stumbled upon this helpful communication technique I’m going to make a conscious effort to improve the quality of my listening skills.


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