Improving verbal communication begins with understanding, and to understand, one must listen. Before anyone can delve into the nuances of communication, such as identifying ambiguous words or recognizing the arguments supporting a conclusion, it must be heard. Improving verbal communication begins with better listening.

Are You a Good Listener? 

Most people suck at listening. I know I do. I must focus my attention during conversations because if I don’t, I drift away. The good listeners I’ve met are few and far between. And that’s why it’s so important that we’re all aware of what diminishes our ability to listen.

A Few years ago, I was at a gathering where several past co-workers and friends attended. I sat and chatted with a few. One excitedly told me about what she’d been doing and asked where I worked? I told her, and she said she’d heard of TKO. She shared about her life and job and then, after 10 or 15 minutes, once again asked me where I worked.

I’m not throwing any stones because I can’t name the number of times I’ve been introduced to someone and couldn’t recall their name or occupation five minutes later. It’s something I’m working on. If you’d like to join me in an exercise on improving verbal communication, let’s begin with these five areas.

5 Steps to Improving Verbal Communication

  1. Listen Actively

Listen to understand, not to reply. Here are a few tips that help me.

  • Make and maintain eye contact
  • Concentrate on what’s being said
  • Clarify your understanding by repeating points
  • Ask questions
  • Pay attention to the speaker’s body language
  • Take notes
  1. Don’t Interrupt

There is no surer sign of a lack of listening than interrupting. Few would argue that interrupting someone in mid-conversation is acceptable behavior, and it’s not. It’s rude, self-centered, and disruptive. So, why do people interrupt others?

  • We think we know what the speaker is about to say
  • We believe what we have to share can’t wait
  • We’re impatient, and we think the speaker is taking too long to get to the point
  • We’re in a hurry, and rather than share our time restraints; we abruptly cut the speaker off
  1. Keep an Open Mind

It’s easy to get sucked into believing you’ve heard what is about to be said. We must think we’re mind readers or psychics, we stereotype people rather than listen, and we drift off because we believe we’ve heard it all before. Or we hear a keyword or phrase that signals us that we’re about to hear something we’ve previously heard. Both instances might be true. However, we can’t know for certain unless we maintain an open mind and listen.

  1. Limit Distractions

I watched a speaker recently who laid her phone on the table before presenting. Throughout her presentation, she would glance at her phone. Twice when her phone pinged, she picked it up and read the information. Once, she responded with a quick type and swipe. It was a lesson for me. Next week I’ll be presenting on blogging. My phone will stay in my car.

Limiting distractions includes visual distractions, interruptions, and media. Turn it off. Go to a quiet place. Don’t allow others to interrupt.

  1. Stop the Head Talk

Stop having a conversation with your subconscious. Whether you’re thinking about your to-do list or formulating a response—just say no. When you find you’re talking to the voice inside your head, shut it off and get back to concentrating on the speaker.

Improving Verbal Communication Begins with You

If you’re ready to improve your verbal communication skills through better listening, here’s your challenge. Over the next five days, at home and work, take on the five methods. For example:

  • Tuesday– Listen actively
  • Wednesday – Don’t interrupt
  • Thursday – Keep an open mind
  • Friday – Limit distractions
  • Saturday – Stop the head talk

Are you ready to take this on? Are you listening?

How Can I Help You?

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

So, does your business have a management training plan? Because, if not, many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out. It might help you stop putting off what you want to do.

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