SEVEN SKILLS FOR SUCCESS
In an era of stiff competition, success can only be achieved if one makes the right kind of endeavour at the right time and in the right direction.
The Following are the seven mantras for success:
I. Communication Skills -
Most of what goes on as business in an organisation is, in fact, communication. Anything that is not communication is probably dependent on something to initiate communication or keep it going. This is why one needs to master the art of communication both verbal as well as written.
The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking
(A)Fundamentals of Effective Speaking
(1). Acquiring the Basic Skills
· Take heart from the experience of others
· Keep your goal before you
· Predetermine your mind to success
· Seize every opportunity to practice
(2). Developing Confidence
· Get the facts about fear of speaking in public
· Prepare in the proper way
· Predetermine your mind to success
· Act confident
(3). Speaking Effectively the Quick and Easy Way
· Speaking about something you have earned the right to talk about through experience or study
· Be sure you are excited about your subject
· Be eager to share your talk with your listeners
(B) Speech, Speaker, and Audience
(4). Earning the Right to Talk
· Limit your subject
· Develop reserve power
· Fill your talk with illustrations and examples
· Use concrete, familiar words that create pictures
(5). Vitalizing the Talk
· Choose subjects you are earnest about
· Relive the Feelings you have about your topic
· Act in earnest
(6). Sharing the Talk with the Audience
· Talk in terms of your listeners' interests
· Give honest, sincere appreciation
· Identify yourself with the audience
· Make your audience a partner in your talk
· Play yourself down
©The Purpose of Prepared and Impromptu Talks
(7). Making the Short Talk to Get Action
· Give your example, an incident from your life
· State your point, what you want the audience to do
· Give the reason or benefit the audience may expect
(8). Making the Talk to Inform
· Restrict your subject to fit the time at your disposal
· Arrange your ideas in sequence
· Enumerate your points as you make them
· Compare the strange with the familiar
· Use visual aids
(9). Making the Talk to Convince
· Win confidence by deserving it
· Get a Yes-response
· Speakin with contagious enthusiasm
· Show respect and affection for your audience
· Begin in a friendly way
(10). Making Impromptu Talks
· Practice impromptu speaking
· Be mentally ready to speak impromptu
· Get into an example immediately
· Speak with animation and force
· Use the principle of the Here and the Now
· Don't talk impromptu--Give an impromptu talk
(D) The Art of Communicating
(11). Delivering the Talk
· Crash through your shell of self-consciousness
· Don't try to imitate others--Be yourself
· Converse with your audience
· Put your heart into your speaking
· Practice making your voice strong and flexible
(E) The Challenge of Effective Speaking
(12). Introducing Speakers, Presenting and Accepting Awards
· Thoroughly prepare what you are going to say
· Follow the T-I-S Formula
· Be enthusiastic
· Thoroughly prepare the talk of presentation
· Express your sincere feelings in the talk of acceptance
(13). Organizing the Longer Talk
· Get attention immediately
· Avoid getting unfavorable attention
· Support your main ideas
· Appeal for action
(14). Applying What You Have Learned
· Use specific detail in everyday conversation
· Use effective speaking techniques in your job
· Seek Opportunities to speak in public
· You must persist
· Keep the certainty of reward before you
II. Influencing Skill
This is more of a leadership trait. It includes persuading and negotiating skills. Persuasion means convincing and encouraging people to do, as against being pushy and aggressive. It is a very powerful tool, especially in conflicting situations both in your professional as well as personal life.
Motivation to enhance abilities
To understand motivation and apply it daily, let's understand its three critical factors. Know these factors and put them into action to greatly enhance your abilities to lead for results.
1. MOTIVATION IS PHYSICAL ACTION.
"Motivation" has common roots with "motor," "momentum," "motion," "mobile," etc. all words that denote movement, physical action. An essential feature of motivation is physical action. Motivation isn't about what people think or feel but what they physically do. When motivating people to get results, challenge them to take those actions that will realize those results.
I counsel leaders who must motivate individuals and teams to get results not to deliver presentations but "leadership talks." Presentations communicate information. But when you want to motivate people, you must do more than simply communicate information. You must have them believe in you and take action to follow you. A key outcome of every leadership talk must be physical action, physical action that leads to results.
For instance, I worked with the newly appointed director of a large marketing department who wanted the department to achieve sizable increases in the results. However, the employees were a demoralized bunch who had been clocking tons of overtime under her predecessor and were feeling angry that their efforts were not being recognized by senior management.
She could have tried to order them to get the increased results. Many leaders do that. But order leadership founders in today's highly competitive, rapidly changing markets. Organizations are far more competitive when their employees instead of being ordered to go from point A to point B want to go from point A to point B. So I suggested that she take a first step in getting the employees to increase results by motivating those employees to want to increase results. They would "want to" when they began to believe in her leadership. And the first step in enlisting that belief was for her to give a number of leadership talks to the employees.
One of her first talks that she planned was to the department employees in the company's auditorium.
She told me, "I want them to know that I appreciate the work they are doing and that I believe that they can get the results I'm asking of them. I want them to feel good about themselves."
"Believing is not enough," I said. "Feeling good is not enough. Motivation must take place. Physical action must take place. Don't give the talk until you know what precise action you are going to have happen."
She got the idea of having the CEO come into the room after the talk, shake each employee's hand, and tell each how much he appreciated their hard work physical action. She didn't stop there. After the CEO left, she challenged each employee to write down on a piece of paper three specific things that they needed from her to help them get the increases in results and then hand those pieces of paper to her personally physical action.
Mind you, that leadership talk wasn't magic dust sprinkled on the employees to instantly motivate them. (To turn the department around so that it began achieving sizable increases in results, she had to give many leadership talks in the weeks and months ahead.) But it was a beginning. Most importantly, it was the right beginning.
2. MOTIVATION IS DRIVEN BY EMOTION.
Emotion and motion come from the same Latin root meaning "to move". When you want to move people to take action, engage their emotions. An act of motivation is an act of emotion. In any strategic management endeavor, you must make sure that the people have a strong emotional commitment to realizing it.
When I explained this to the chief marketing officer of a worldwide services company, he said, "Now I know why we're not growing! We senior leaders developed our marketing strategy in a bunker! He showed me his "strategy" document. It was some 40 pages long, single spaced. The points it made were logical, consistent, and comprehensive. It made perfect sense. That was the trouble. It made perfect, intellectual sense to the senior leaders. But it did not make experiential sense to middle management who had to carry it out. They had about as much input into the strategy as the window washers at corporate headquarters. So they sabotaged it in many innovative ways. Only when the middle managers were motivated were emotionally committed to carrying out the strategy did that strategy have a real chance to succeed.
3. MOTIVATION IS NOT WHAT WE DO TO OTHERS. IT'S WHAT OTHERS DO TO THEMSELVES.
The English language does not accurately depict the psychological truth of motivation. The truth is that we cannot motivate anybody to do anything. The people we want to motivate can only motivate themselves. The motivator and the "motivatee" are always the same person. We as leaders communicate, they motivate. So our "motivating" others to get results really entails our creating an environment in which they motivate themselves to get those results.
For example: a commercial division leader almost faced a mutiny on his staff when in a planning session, he put next year's goals, numbers much higher than the previous year's, on the overhead. The staff all but had to be scrapped off the ceiling after they went ballistic. "We busted our tails to get these numbers last year. Now you want us to get much higher numbers? No way!"
He told me. "We can hit those numbers. I just have to get people motivated!"
I gave him my person!" pitch. I suggested that he create an environment in which they could motivate themselves. So he had them assess what activities got results and what didn't. They discovered that they spent more than 60 percent of their time on work that had nothing to do with getting results. He then had them develop a plan to eliminate the unnecessary work. Put in charge of their own destiny, they got motivated! They developed a great plan and started to get great results.
Over the long run, your career success does not depend on what schools you went to and what degrees you have. That success depends instead on your ability to motivate individuals and teams to get results. Motivation is like a high voltage cable lying at your feet. Use it the wrong way, and you'll get a serious shock. But apply motivation the right way by understanding and using the three factors, plug the cable in, as it were, and it will serve you well in many powerful ways throughout your career.
Here are 12 motivational tools that can bring you success:
1. Recognizing obstacles and learning to remove them can make your vision a reality. The individual who is extremely motivated and successful has been motivated by a vision.
2. The quest for freedom is the basis for motivation. Total freedom is not necessarily desirable or possible, but the pursuit of that ideal is what motivates us to succeed.
3. People who develop a vision control their own life and destiny. With no vision, your life and destiny are controlled by outside forces. You must change your thinking habits in order to change your life, and you change your habits by keeping the desired results in sight.
4. Develop a major goal, but take a specified path to get there. You'll have many smaller goals to reach before you get to the final result. By learning to accomplish these smaller goals, you'll be motivated to take on the larger challenges.
5. Get into the habit of finishing what you start. An unfinished project is of no value. Leaving things unfinished is a habit that must be changed.
6. Find support through friends, acquaintances, and co-workers. If you surround yourself with motivated, visionary people you will naturally develop the attributes that helped them get that way. Mutual interests and like-minded associates can be excellent motivational tools.
7. Another motivational tool is failure. Failure teaches us to keep trying until we get it right. No one ever became successful without prior failures. Failure is a by-product of imagination and creativity. It challenges you to take risks and teaches you to keep trying until you get it right.
8. The fear of failure is a common factor among those who procrastinate. If you want to succeed in reaching your goals, you must be willing to take a risk and lose. Many people trade joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment for a job that is considered conventional and safe.
9. The unfulfilling job is not the failure; not pursuing your dreams is the real failure. Developing a vision requires conquering your fears and finding motivation from within.
10. The power of your dreams is the primary factor in becoming motivated. Productivity will be the result of developing habits and attitudes that keep you on the right track.
11. By changing bad habits and focusing on your specific goals, motivation will come to you even when you wish you could quit and times are tough.
12. By identifying the behaviors that you need to change, developing a vision of what you would like to achieve, and striving to attain that goal, you will become a naturally motivated, highly efficient, productive person.
Do not let fear of failure stop you from having the freedom to choose the lifestyle and destiny you desire.
True motivation is not only a learned skill; it is developed due to a need or desire to make our dreams a reality. If you want to find inner motivation, you must identify your goals and set out on an unwavering path to achieve them.
Overcoming procrastination is perhaps one of the most important steps you can take to improve your life and become the motivated, successful person you are capable of being.
III. Managing Skills
In layman's words this term means getting things done. But from the career perspective it means managing things, people and of course, managing yourself, that is , your time, resources and money. To be able to achieve success one needs to prepare and train himself/ herself in the art of effective management.
IV. Problem Solving Skill
It means knowing how to recognize and define problems, implement solutions and track and evaluate results. Effective problem solving skills will help to become the backbone of any team, which in turn will help in career prospects.
V. Creative Thinking Skill
It is said that intelligence is central to both the right and left modes of the brain. But the majority of people give more importance only to the logical approach in problem solving. What is really required is a blend of logical and lateral thinking processes together to generate new ideas and solutions, seeing things in the 'round' and having an open mind.
VI. Social Skills
It means one's ability to relate to people, having insights, helping others and facilitating. Interdependence today is of greater value than independence. Thus it becomes that much more important for you to take a genuine interest in people with whom you work and spent time, emotion and money on them.
Main factors for developing a strong personality in social environment:
1. Pleasing appearance.
2. Beneficial communication.
3. Adapting and adhering to social values in interactions.
4. Developing confidence of
(a) Sincerity, integrity and trust.
(b) Completing duties, fulfilling responsibilities in time.
(c) Economic independence, but not being miser.
5. Additional spices for the best impression:
(a) Awareness and alertness.
(b) Useful application of: knowledge in depth, positive intelligence and defensive smartness.
(c) Self-Confidence, Initiative, dynamism, leadership qualities, will-power and self-discipline.
(d) Adaptive to moral values.
Requisites for personality development in social context are in the order of: (1) Intelligence; (2) killing smartness; (3) wealth; (4) character; (5) knowledge. Whereas the requisites of personality development for self improvement: (1) Character; (2) Wealth; (3) knowledge; (4) Intelligence; (5) Defending Smartness.
Personality Development builds up certain characteristics which help to gain for himself, his family, his unit and society. The gain may be of materialistic or non-materialistic and direct, or indirect. Your bringing up values in others brings gains for them which in turn bring gains indirectly to you. Many a times we first try for non-materialistic gains like popularity and good-will, which we encash it for more wealth (materialistic) later on; this is how one’s personality helps to gain materialistic advantage thro’ non-materialistic benefits.
Personality is of two types, viz: in-built personality and out-ward personality. In-built personality refers to one’s inner strength on account of maturity and morality which develops a strong self-confidence in one’s attitudes and approaches. Out-ward personality depends upon one’s potentiality of creating a strong impression with others. Out-ward personality helps to achieve materialistic confidence and in-built personality helps to attain moral confidence.
There are certain definite techniques which can be applied to the improvement of your personality in the framework of the social setting described above. If you want to practice these techniques you must first learn what they are:
1. Concentrate on one thing at a time.
2. Understand how you came to be what you are.
3. Imagine yourself becoming what you want to be.
4. Suggest to yourself that you can be what you imagine.
5. Act the part you want to play in life.
These are general principles of habit formation that can be applied to the various habits that go to make up your personality.
1. Concentrate on one thing at a time. Personality is the sum total of our habits, physical, mental and emotional. Therefore, the problem of improving it needs to be broken down into the specific habits that require cultivation. These should be tackled one at a time.
Let us assume that you accept this advice and that you choose to concentrate on improving your confidence. This is not, of course, the only choice you could make. You are not limited to this one trait but can, if wish, work on any other.
For example, do you remain cool in emergencies? Do you avoid blaming others when things go wrong? Can you always be depended upon to do what you say you will do? Do you go out of your way cheerfully to help others? Do you have reasonable faith in humanity? Do you show an interest in the interests of others? Do you take an active part in any organizations to which you belong?
According to the way in which you answer these and other similar questions that you might ask yourself, you will want to aim at developing poise, acceptance of responsibility, reliability, helpfulness, trust, other-interest, co-cooperativeness, and so on.
But we will assume that you have selected confidence as the trait you want to develop. We make this assumption for several reasons: (a) many people who feel that they need to improve their personality at all feel that they could do with a bit more confidence; (b) Confidence is basic to success in practically all human activities; (c) To cultivate confidence may go a long way towards self-improvement in other traits besides.
2. Understand how you came to be what you are. Develop a fuller understanding of your own motives. Study your childhood experiences to discover the causes of the trouble. Revive the original memories and re-evaluate them in the light of mature adult experience. ‘The improvement of personality,’ says Dr.Roback, ‘hinges on insight.’
Lack of confidence may be caused by being born to parents who themselves lack confidence; having a characteristic which makes one feel different from other people; feeling unloved and unwanted in childhood, being over-protected, spoilt or pampered as a child by one’s parents; undergoing psychic traumas or emotional shocks in childhood, such as being deprived of one or both parents; and experiencing a mental conflict which leads to the repression of a strong desire.
To findout the reason, then, spend a few minutes regularly each day thinking about the events of your past life and reliving the feelings which you had at the time. Study your childhood memories with particular reference to any of the typical causes listed above. When you recall an event or situation which helps you to see why you lack confidence, try to recall how you felt at the time when it occurred. Find some way of ‘working off’ your feelings in direct, useful physical activity, e.g, digging the garden chopping wood, etc.
Go over each experience again and again in your mind, working off the emotions connected with it, until you can think about it without feeling upset by it.
The purpose of this exercise is to enable you to gain insight into the reasons why you lack confidence, and to release the repressed emotions which lie at the root of this symptom. If you can succeed in accomplishing this task, you will have gained a valuable piece of self-knowledge.
Imagine yourself becoming what you want to be. Don’t try to overcome your lack of confidence merely by an effort of will. As well as relying upon will-power use the power of imagination. Imagination and will together are more effective than either alone. In your mind’s eye see a picture of yourself as you would like to be. Create a mental picture of yourself plus the desired change. Then use your will-power to make the mental picture a reality.
For example, in your mind’s eye see yourself acting with confidence in your social life. Imagine yourself exchanging opinions with the people you meet and taking an active interest in their interests. See yourself replying confidently when the boss speaks to you, picture yourself dating that girl who attracts you. Then get in there and really do it.
The law of reversed effort is invoked by a conflict between will and imagination. For example, you will yourself to accomplish something, but your imagination dwells on thoughts of failure. The result is that you fail. The solution of the problem is to get will and imagination working together, as suggested above. When you will yourself to do something, you should also picture yourself succeeding.
1. Suggest to yourself that you can be what you imagine. Tell yourself that you can become what you want to be. Suggest to yourself that you will no longer be afraid of the memories of the past. Affirm to yourself, at frequent intervals, quietly but forecully, whatever change you desire. In other words, you can replace fear by confidence with the help of autosuggestion.
For this purpose, you should on retiring, on awakening and at any other convenient time repeat to yourself:’ Hour by hour and day by day, I’m gaining confidence in every way.” The key work is ‘confidence’, and the affirmation may even be shortened to this. That is, you can simply repeat the word ‘confidence’ to yourself. You can do this instead of saying the full affirmation or after you have said it. When saying the full affirmation you can prevent your mind wandering by placing a special stress on the key word.
2. Act the part you want to play. Act as if the desired change in yourself had already taken place.
Be interested in what other people are saying. A man said: ‘I find that being in company can be distressing. I have a feeling that people are not interested in what I am saying.’ Therefore, if you want to put people at their ease, be as interested in them as you expect them to be in you. Show a genuine interest in other people. Talk about the things that interest them.
Rejoice with others in their good fortune. Show appreciation of others. Speak well of people. Avoid making them feel inferior. Eliminate disapproval and adverse criticism.
Cultivate the habit of a friendly smile. Smile, darn you, smile, as the song says. Cultivate a sense of humour. Listen with sympathy and interest to what others have to say. ‘A little sympathy for others will change the personality,’ promises Dr.Roback.
Be enthusiastic. ‘A face lighted up with enthusiasm,’ says Dr.Roback, ‘will always atone for a poor complexion, a too large nose, a too wider mouth, or too small eyes.’
Emotions like fear or timidity cannot be altered directly by an effort of will, but we can control their outward expression. If you want to appear self confident, act as though you were self-confident. Carry out the bodily movements appropriate to the emotion you wish to cultivate. As we read in Hamlet, ‘Assume a virtue though you have it not.’
For example, a woman who lacked self-confidence said:’I don’t confide to people at large the way I really fee, and I am constantly being told how people envy my smart appearance and air of confidence. As a result I have felt more confident, so that I am beginning to wonder whether I have not imagined the embarrassment.’
Finally, a word about character: Character is the moral aspect of personality. For example, red hair is a trait of personality, but honesty is a trait of character. Other examples of character traits are: consideration for others, self-denial, conscientiousness, persistence, reliability, a sense of responsibility, self-respect, obedience to a worthy authority, reverence, self-control, courage, industriousness, initiative, consistency, loyalty, unselfishness, and so on.
A remarkable feature of character is its uniformity. For example, if a man is rude to one person who irritates him, his rudeness to another person who does the same thing hardly surprises us. We expect a woman who is conscientious in her household duties to be equally conscientious if she is appointed secretary of Mothers’ Union. A child who does neat and accurate homework in French can usually be relied upon to do the same thing in Maths.
Character cannot be changed radically once childhood has been left behind. The basis of character is laid down in the first five years of life, and thereafter it can only be added to.
Two important influences contribute to moulding the character of the individual in childhood. In the first place, character is acquired through unconscious imitation. In other words, the child takes over the early standards of thought and conduct set for him by his parents. This is the most important and decisive element in the formation of character. It leads to the development of the superego, conscience or moral self.
The second important influence that contributes to the moulding of character is the identifications which the child makes not only with his parents but also with other personas in authority, such as teachers and ministers of religion. In particular, there is usually a strong identification between the individual and the parent of the same sex. In other words, the boy normally wants to grow up to be a man like Dad, while the girl takes her mother as her ideal.
These considerations lead to a practical conclusion that provides the answer to the question of character development. We should associate ourselves with people who posses those traits that we regard as making up a sound character in the highest and broadest sense of the term. By this means we provide ourselves with a pattern upon which we can model the additions that we want to make to the basic character that was formed by our experiences in the first five years of life.
Tips to improve Social Skills
In the process of learning how to improve your social skills, your self-esteem will soar and your confidence will reach an all-time high. Here are some tips:
1. Awareness of your own interaction with other people is the first step in improving your social skills. Learn to identify which types of situations make you uncomfortable and then modify your behavior to achieve positive results is a critical step in improving your social skills.
You can learn to become aware of behaviors in other people that prompt you to respond in negative ways and modify your own behavior to turn the situation into a positive experience.
2. You must accept responsibility for your own behavior and do not fear apologizing for errors in judgment or insensitive actions.
Asking others for honest feedback about the way you interact with others can be very helpful. Accept the negative feedback along with the positive and make changes accordingly.
3. Your non-verbal communication is equally as important as the things that you say. Positive body language is extremely important in your interactions with other people.
If your words and your actions do not match, you will have a difficult time succeeding in social situations.
4. In order to learn how to improve your social skills, you must become and great listener. You must fight the urge to respond immediately and really listen to what the other person is trying to communicate.
Offering suggestions or criticism before you are certain of the other person's intent can only lead to frustration for both parties.
5. Improving your social skills is a process and cannot be accomplished overnight. Trying to improve or change too many things at once will be counter-productive. You will become discouraged and overwhelmed if you attempt to change your entire personality all at once.
Choose one or two traits at a time and work on those over a period of time. Learn to take advantage of your personal strengths and make a positive impact on others.
6. Maximize your positive personality traits and use them in your interactions with others. Good communication and great listening skills are the most important tools you can use in improving your social skills.
You can learn how to improve your social skills by developing excellent listening skills, learning to resolve problems and conflicts, understanding body language, and accepting responsibility for your own negative behavior.
How to Win Friends and Influence People
Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
1. Don't criticize, condemn or complain.
2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.
Six ways to make people like you
1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
3. Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
5. Talk in terms of the other person's interests.
6. Make the other person feel important - and do it sincerely.
Win people to your way of thinking
1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
2. Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say, "You're wrong."
3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
4. Begin in a friendly way.
5. Get the other person saying "yes, yes" immediately.
6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
7. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
8. Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.
9. Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.
10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
11. Dramatize your ideas.
12. Throw down a challenge.
Be a Leader: How to Change People without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment
A leader's job often includes changing your people's attitudes and behavior. Some suggestions to accomplish this:
1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
2. Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly.
3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
5. Let the other person save face.
6. Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be "hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise."
7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
9. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.
The 5 Keys to Interpersonal Success
In survey after survey, interpersonal communication skills are consistently ranked at or near the top of a list of skills necessary for career success. People who possess these skills enjoy a richer personal life, better relationships at work and more productive interactions with those around them. Teams with members who excel at these skills are more productive and more cohesive. No one is born with these "people skills." They are the result of attention and practice. Here are five guaranteed ways to hone your people skills.
1. Recognize differences in people and be ready to adapt. Because we think of ourselves at operating within a norm, we tend to see people who act and communicate differently from us as deviating from the norm. As a result, we believe that one communication style (ours) should fit all. Overcome this limiting mindset by recognizing differences in preferences and motivations among people.
If it's all about communicating you say, why do we need all the distinctions? You don't use a rolling pin to chop vegetables and you don't use a chef's knife to roll out bread dough, even though it's all cooking. You have to choose the right tool for the right job.
For example, a fundamental principle of adult learning theory is that we have different preferences for acquiring knowledge. Depending on those preferences, we'll be more effective in communicating our message when we learn whether to emphasize visual, verbal or tactile approaches.
People also have different motivations. Anne may be motivated by the promise of a salary increase while David strives for peer recognition. Discovering and applying the right motivation will help you get the cooperation you need from others.
2. Learn to listen well. When people compliment someone on being a great communicator, they often mean that the person is a good listener. Although most of us will have had at least one, if not several courses on reading, writing and speaking during our years of formal education, have you ever taken a listening course? We spend more time listening than in any other communication activity. In fact, given how much time we spend listening, it's neglect is surprising.
A major problem with listening occurs when we approach an interaction with different goals. I may be listening to gather information and solve a problem while my partner wants me to listen so that I empathize with his or her feelings. If I'm focused on generating solutions when my partner is looking for support, I'll be perceived to be "not listening" or unsympathetic to my partner's point of view.
Sometimes, what you see as a simple yes or no question designed to elicit information will be interpreted as a criticism of the other person. Don't become frustrated when your question is met with more information than you expected. It's probably designed to establish a context for the answer and explain the behavior that your partner thought you criticized.
To improve your listening skills, you'll need to develop genuine interest in your partner. Demonstrate your interest by seizing opportunities to ask questions. Search for common ground and be open to the possibility that you'll learn something new. There is a wise old saying that we were born with two ears but only one mouth so we could listen twice as much as we talk.
3. Realize that communication is more than just the words we use. We take communication for granted because we do it so frequently, but it's actually a complex process. While we are all wired with the same hardware (brain), the software (interpretive framework) varies tremendously among individuals. This means that given the same input (behaviors or words), we will reach different conclusions based on how we process that data. There are three aspects involved: 1) What you mean to say, 2) How you code this thought into language that gets verbalized and 3) How people interpret what you say. Consequently, there is often a tremendous difference between what you say and what someone hears.
Meant: "I know this is a big project, so I should chip in and pull my weight." Said: "I'd like to offer my help on the project." Heard: "You're not doing this right, so I'd better become involved."
Meant: "I'm very busy with all the projects I've been assigned." Said: "I'll get to your task as soon as I can." Heard: "Your task isn't as important to me as the other things I'm doing."
Be sensitive to the non-verbal clues of your partner and explain statements that seem puzzling or critical.
4. Learn to manage conflict rather than avoid it. We often think of conflict as something to be avoided at all costs. However, conflict is a natural part of human interaction. Sometimes, in an effort to avoid conflict, important information isn't communicated. Avoidance is only one strategy among many. When an issue is very important to someone else, but of little consequence to you, consider accommodating the person.
Managed properly, conflict can actually be beneficial. For example, conflict provides a method to weed out faulty assumptions and premises. Make a clear distinction between a conflict with a person and that person's ideas. Show respect for the person even when you disagree with the ideas. Learn to manage conflict with the appropriate strategy rather than simply to avoid it.
5. Be known for positive rather than negative interactions. This doesn't mean you have to be an optimist on steroids. An over-the-top optimist never recognizes a problem exists. A pessimist never realizes a solution exists. When you consistently maintain a positive frame of mind, you'll become known as a problem-solver rather than a complainer. People avoid complainers. They seek out problem-solvers.
A great way to demonstrate a positive outlook is in your language. When someone thanks you, do you ever respond with the phrase "No problem" or "Not a problem" ? If so, you are marking the interaction by two negative words. Turn those negatives into positives by responding "I'm glad to help" or "It was my pleasure."