Communication – Listen First

I saw this quote (picture below) and have been thinking about it all week.  Communication the all time hot topic for development in most jobs.  How to improve it, to excel at it and how to drive others with your leadership of it.


I asked myself this week, do I listen to reply or do I listen to understand?  In many cases I’m needed to reply, direct, mentor or give advice; however, I feel that one needs to understand before moving to a response.  The key is the mindset to ensure you understand first.

There are times where I’ve ask a question to my leadership team and the answer I get is a “non” answer to my question.  Which I quickly translate to “I don’t know” but for some reason there is a fear, for not knowing something, it’s what I call the autonomic reply.  I dislike this autonomic reply, I’d rather deal with the uncomfortable silence for redirected questions if necessary, than get the “non” answer.  This is a communication problem i.e, poor listening skills.

Let’s be fair, not everyone is a great communicator (topic for another blog) or it wouldn’t be a hot topic come goal setting time, however, as a listener it’s up to us to understand.  How does one become a good listener?  Glad you asked – Here are steps to get you on your way.  Think CAR.

1.  Classification
It’s important to know, as the listener, if you are to respond. As you’re listening, decide if there is a call to action expected of you. Sometimes the role of listening is just that, to listen and empathize. Classify and know your role. If in doubt ask, but at the end, if the discussion has already started, when you understand more. If you ask up front you look like a tool.

2.  Attention!
In the military, soldiers don’t doodle around multi-tasking when their superior commands attention, they do it. No multi-tasking. So take this step and ensure your attention is directed correctly.  Don’t do the mental wonder, stay in the present and focus.

3.  Repeat
The act of understanding, is easier said than done sometimes. When you’re having a hard time understanding something, ask clarifying questions. Repeat what you’ve heard. It’s not meant to be frustrating to the person talking, however, if the intent is for understanding and reply, you need to know what’s being asked or communicated. Now is not the time for assumptions. Remember the saying, assumptions make an ass out of you and me when wrong.

I hope this helps you on your listening skills.  Which step will you apply in the next week, do you already use these steps?  Do you have another to add? I’d love to hear from you, please leave a comment below.

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3 thoughts on “Communication – Listen First”

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