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Tag Archives: assertive communication

Active listening is a critical leadership skill

As regular readers of our blog know, active listening is an essential skill in leadership.  And like most aspects of leadership, it’s a learned skill.  Which is why I’m so pleased that Jackie Edwards is guesting on the blog today with this great piece focusing on the value of active listening.  Jackie is an editor and writer, who previously worked as an HR Manager for a small finance company.  She currently focuses on writing about the world of management and business.

Managers: Are You Really Listening?

When you’re talking to someone, naturally you want to know that they are listening. As in, really listening. This is especially true when it involves your place of work. As a manager, you have a huge part to play in your team’s happiness at work. Being a good listener is key to this. Employees want to know that their manager values their opinions, takes their points on board and responds accordingly. Seeing as we retain half of what we hear (at most), all of us should work on improving our listening skills. To be an effective leader, this is vital.

Be an active listener

The best listeners are active listeners. Active listening means not just hearing what someone says, but focusing on the speaker and showing that you are listening – whether that be through verbal or nonverbal cues, or both. Active listening can be practiced and developed over time by following a few simple steps: Continue reading

Three indisputable benefits of listening

curious businessman listens with glass leaning against the wallOver the years, I’ve penned many blog posts about the importance of effective listening, including the very interesting use of the word “listen” in traditional Mandarin Chinese. Today though, I thought it was worthwhile bringing up how not listening effectively actually causes people to sabotage their credibility and effectiveness. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize the benefits of listening, and thus, the serious consequences of not. Right off the top of my head, here are three specific benefits of listening that I can think of. Continue reading

Good listening is a learned skill

In the past, I’ve talked about how the the disparity between how fast we can talk and how fast the human brain can process information is a major contributor to poor listening (see Good listening: it’s about staying “checked-in”).  And if that wasn’t bad enough, there are all kinds of mental and physical barriers that get in the way of good listening as well.  So what’s a person to do, you might ask?  With the odds stacked against us, it is really possible to be a good listener?  The unequivocal answer is yes!

But listening, like any other skill, is one that gets better with use and practice.  If you play a sport of any kind, then you know exactly what I mean.  Let’s just say that your sport of choice is golf.  If you think back to the very first time you picked up a club and went out on the course, the chances are good that you didn’t play like a pro.  In fact, you probably weren’t very good at all.  But with practice, you got better!  And that’s exactly how it is with listening.  The more you make an effort at it, the more you focus on improving your skill, the better you will get at it.

Because I know that I am not naturally a good listener (I prefer to speak, after all :)), I call myself a work-in-progress.  All that means is that even though I am not a perfect listener today, I am better at it now than I was a year ago, and a year ago, I was a better listener than I was two years ago.  You get the idea!

So what about you?  Are you a good listener?  What are you doing to get better everyday?


Good listening: be aware of mental and physical barriers that can get in the way

Last November, I blogged about the disparity between how fast we can talk and how fast the human brain can process information is a major contributor to poor listening (see Good listening: it’s about staying “checked-in”).  But what else can get in the way of active listening?  Well, mental and physical barriers can as well.  One example of a mental barrier is a phenomenon called self-focus, which is the endless conversation that occurs inside our heads.  Whether it is what needs to be picked up at the grocery store on the way home, a mental composition of an email note that needs to be sent out that afternoon, a thought about what to have for lunch, or just plain ol’ daydreamin’, this internal talk pulls us away from the dialogue in front of us and causes us to not listen as well as we should.  Criticism is another example of a mental barrier.  Human nature is that when we are criticized, we tend to get defensive, and defensiveness immediately impairs listening.  On the other hand, physical barriers have to do with our environment.  One universal example is noise.  It’s harder to listen and stay focused in a noisy environment where there are many other loud distractions to pull us away from the discussion at hand.

An essential component of effective communication is good listening.  So when it’s important to listen carefully, it’s well worth being aware of the physical and mental barriers that can get in the way and make communication harder.

So what do you think?  What else gets in the way of good listening?  What have I missed?

Good listening: it’s about staying “checked-in”

Interesting fact: people speak anywhere from 120-300 words per minute.

Even more interesting fact: the human brain is capable of processing information anywhere from 600-2,000 words per minute.

EarSo no matter which end of the range you select, when someone else is talking, your brain can process information about 2-7 times faster than the other person can speak.  Which suggests that while you’re participating in a conversation, you have a lot of free time! 😀  As funny as that sounds, this explains why our minds tend to wander — it’s because people can’t speak fast enough to keep our minds occupied.  I call this phenomenon “checking in and checking out.”  It’s what our brains do under normal circumstances — we “check in”, listen to a portion of the conversation, and then “check out” and go somewhere else.  We then return frequently, doing the same thing each time.  And in most situations, this constant checking-in/checking-out gives us sufficient knowledge of the topic being discussed so that we can actually participate intelligently.  However, there are times when it is essential to stay more “checked-in,” such as when the topic is important, or complicated, or tied to personal or professional goals. In future blog posts, I’ll offer some specific ideas on HOW to stay checked in.  But for now, I have a question:

What situations (personal or professional) can you think of where it is absolutely critical to stay “checked-in”?

Communicating with confidence and clarity

Communicating with ConfidenceThe great folks at PDNet and CGA Canada have invited me to deliver a live webinar “Communicating with Confidence and Clarity” on Tuesday September 14, 2010 at 9 AM Pacific Standard Time.   If you’ve never attended a live webcast before, it’s a great way to get focused relevant learning right at your desk.  Using just your desktop or laptop computer, you’ll be able to view and hear the webcast.  Plus, a recorded version of the webcast will be available to all participants for one year.  Priced at just $169 ($139 if you’re a CGA member), it’s a steal!  REGISTRATION CLOSES 24 HOURS BEFORE THE EVENT STARTS. SO DON’T DELAY! To register, or get more information, go to

Continue reading

Communicating with Confidence – Live audio event on February 10

When you are suddenly faced with a situation in which you need to speak to a group or make a presentation, do you wonder whether you are projecting the professionalism and expertise you know you possess? Do you wrestle with getting others to buy-in to your ideas and strategies? What about getting people to act on the commitments they make? If you’ve ever struggled with any of these issues, then battle no more! It IS possible to deliver your message with control and composure. It IS possible to think on your feet and craft a message on the fly. It IS possible to speak directly, yet respectfully, and hold others accountable to their word. It IS possible, and I can help! On February 10, I’ll be leading an audio conference that will give you the skills to communicate with confidence, clarity and credibility.   I hope you’ll join me.

Click here to register

In one power-packed hour, right from the comfort of your office, I’ll give you specific, practical, and useful tools to communicate with confidence, clarity and credibility. You’ll learn:

  • How assertive communication is your key to establishing credibility and projecting confidence
  • One guaranteed method to improve your communication
  • Specific techniques to ensure that your message is taken seriously
  • Seven ways to use body language to reinforce your message
  • Six “magic” words and phrases that will advance dignity, respect and influence in all your interactions
  • Five specific things that you can do to make a good first impression
  • How to overcome your nervousness in meetings and in front of groups

Join me on February 10, 2010 at 11 AM MST. Early bird pricing in effect ONLY until this Wednesday February 3!

Click here to register, or for more information.