Effective communication is one of the most important skills we can learn. The ability to improve communication is usually neglected, but it is something which you can learn in few minutes that will impress people. Becoming an active listener is a great way to start; as the art of conversation lies in listening. One way to improve active listening skills is to follow these four simple habits, abbreviated as STFU: Silence, Translation, Follow-up and Understanding.
A key skill that one can master is the use of silence. To become an active listener, you should never multi task with listening and talking. Always try to avoid the intuitive and reflexive words like “Yeah”, “I know” when someone else is speaking. Learn the value of a non-verbal communication with verbal silence. Use body languages like nodding, mirroring the posture, eye contact instead of unwanted filler words.
It is the paraphrasing or translating into your own words of what you heard. Translation is important when you want the speaker to know that you have understood what the speaker has said. It also reassures the speaker that you are interested. Phrases like, “What did you mean when you said…”, “So, you mean to say….” can be used to restate the speaker’s statements.
Do not overdo this; it’s a conversation, not an interview. But don’t miss the spots in the conversation where you can translate.
The purpose is to convey interest and to keep the person talking. To do this, use follow-up questions like, “Tell me more about…”, “Why did you…” directly linked to what they are talking about. Again, this isn’t an interview, so look for the conversational spots. Most people love to talk about themselves, give them that spotlight.
“The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply”
Make a sincere attempt to understand what the other person is speaking about. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person to understand the other person’s perspective. The ability to empathize with another person can help build trust and is the basis to resolve any conflicts.
People will be impressed how friendly and Easy-to-talk-to you are when you spend most of the time NOT talking about yourself. Communication works for those who work at it.