Communication tip #1,374 is this: Stop talking and start listening.

Communicating is a two-way street, a two-party system, so to speak. Yet in most discussions about communication skills, a disproportionate amount of time and focus (granted, I am guilty of this as well!) is spent on the output side. The input, or intake, side gets less attention.

What we’re talking about here is listening. Yup, we’re talking about communicating’s better half – the listening side of the equation. If you’re the speaker at a meeting or presentation, there’s a danger of preparing to “broadcast” but that’s only one half of your work at the front of the room.

Here are 3 tips on listening:

1. Employ what I like to call dynamic listening – listening with all of your senses, and listening before, during and after your meeting or presentation. In a nutshell: Listen, or pay attention, to your audience with not only your ears, but your eyes, your gut and intuition. And listen not only during your meeting or presentation, but before and after – by anticipating before and reflecting after. The goal here is to meet your audience’s needs, satisfy their interests, and create the best possible experience for them.

2. Especially during Q&A, listen for themes that reveal concerns and interests, rather than listening to specific words. Other people’s words can derail you, get you off message, and – the worst – potentially draw you into negative language. If you listen for the theme of someone’s question (or soapbox speech, which is okay too!), you will be more apt and able to take command of the reply and answer using your own positive, affirmative words as opposed to rehashing someone else’s potentially negative words.

3. For your own benefit and the benefit of the other person/people you are communicating with, use the therapists’ tried-and-true technique of active listening. Active listening involves fully listening for comprehension and restating back to a person what you understood their statement or question to be. This helps both parties in the communication. The speaker consciously listens in order to be able to repeat for confirmation – which aids their retention and comprehension. And the person who made the comment or asked the question feels heard and cared about – plus they have the opportunity to correct or adjust their point if it was misstated.

At the end of the day, it’s all about them – your audience – and not all about you. Therefore, the two sides of the communication coin are equally important in delivering a positive experience and good impression to your audiences.

Listen up and good luck out there!

Beth Levine