Four Keys to Effective Listening

An excerpt on Effective Listening from Brian Tracy's The Power of Charm

Every book, article, or course on this subject ultimately comes to the same conclusion: There are four key elements of effective listening. If you can master them, your "charm quotient" will skyrocket immediately.

1. Listen attentively. Listen without interrupting. Listen in complete silence, as if there is nothing in the world that is more important to you at this moment than what the other person is saying.

If someone wants to talk to you, especially at home, immediately discontinue all other activities and give that person your complete attention.

Turn off the television, shut the book or newspaper, and focus single-mindedly on what the other person is saying. This behavior will be instantly recognized and appreciated, and will give you tremendous emotional power in the conversation.

To listen as if you are transfixed by what the other person is saying, imagine that your eyes are sunlamps and you are giving the person's face a tan.

When a person is intently listened to by another, he is affected biochemically. His brain releases endorphins, nature's "happy drug" which makes him feel good about himself. His self-esteem goes up and he likes himself more. Above all, he likes and trusts you more by virtue of your listening attentively to him. The payoff is extraordinary.

2. Pause before replying. Rather than jumping in as soon as the other person takes a breath, pause for three to five seconds. Allow a silence to exist. Just relax.

When you pause, three things happen, all of them good. First, you avoid interrupting the other person if he is just pausing to reorganize his thoughts before continuing. Second, by pausing, you tell the person that what he said was important and that you are considering it carefully. This reinforces the personal value of the speaker and causes him to see you as a more attractive and intelligent person. Third, you actually hear the person, not only what he said, but what he meant, at a deeper level of mind. Try it once and see.

3. Question for clarification. Never assume that you know exactly what the person meant by what he said. Instead, help him to expand on his most recent remark by asking, "How do you mean?" or "What do you mean, exactly?"

Here is one of the most important rules of communication: The person who asks questions has control.

The person answering the questions is controlled by the person asking them. When a person is speaking in answer to a question, fully 100 percent of his focus and attention is on what he is saying; he cannot think of anything else. He is totally controlled by the questioner.

The trick to charming someone with this technique is to ask your questions thoughtfully. All great communicators know this and use it regularly.

4. Feed it back: paraphrase it in your own words. This is the acid test of effective listening, the proof that you were really paying attention, instead of engaging in the "phony listening" that is so common today.

When a person finishes speaking, you pause and say something like., "So, you just did this, and then this happened, and then you decided to do that, right?"

Only when the speaker confirms that's what he said and meant do you continue, either by asking another question or commenting on what has just been said.

More information on effective listening...