Another tip, based on a few years of experience, is regarding “Active Listening”. I’ve seen some people who are naturals (you’re probably not) and most people need a regular refresher (I’m one of them). These tips are in order of how you should listen with the other person, who has some problem to solve.
1. Provide an opener: “tell me about…<the problem/topic>”
2. Provide responses: Note that casual and frequent use of words and phrases, such as: ‘very good’, ‘yes’ or ‘indeed’ can become irritating to the speaker. It is usually better to elaborate and explain why you are agreeing with a certain point.
3. Restate what has been said: Rephrase it in your own words to show you comprehend what’s being said
4. Clarify what has been said: If you need to understand more, or want to double-check that you understand it
5. Show empathy: “That sounds like a dilemma” and similar phrases help show that you really do care (don’t fake it though)
6. Help explore their options: Not all options need a fix, work-around, or purchase decision right now, but maybe in the future
7. Summarize: Repeat the main points back in a clear and logical way, and ask if you’ve understood it correctly
More tips on active listening, reflecting and clarifying are at: http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/active-listening.html
Other tactics, uses and barriers to active listening are at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_listening
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