When it comes down to communicating each other, there is nothing more important than listening to the other person. Since we are surrounded by things that are distracting, it’s hard not to look like you’re completely ignoring the person. At home, my husband has this really bad habit of staring at the TV when I’m talking to him, replying with “uh-huh” a lot and then when I call him on it, he can repeat every word I say back to me. I still don’t feel like he’s listening, because he’s not engaged. At least, he doesn’t seem to be engaged. On a conference call or a phone call it is even harder to seem engaged, because no one can see you and your listening skills become even more important. Here are some listening skills you can use to show that you are engaged and interested in the conversation you’re having.
Turn off email, IM, and even your phone. Even if you put everything on silent and turn the speakers on your computer down, people can see hear you typing. Unless the conversation you’re having online is directly related to the conversation you’re having on the phone, it won’t kill you to stop multitasking for 30 minutes to an hour. (No, seriously, it won’t.)
When asked a question, try to repeat bits of it back in your answer. Let’s say I was asked a question about the changing climate of business travel. I would respond with, “That’s a great question. I think the changing climate of business travel is…” Or whatever would be appropriate. It lets the person who is asking the questions know you’re actively listening to the conversation.
Let the natural flow of conversation take you over. Keep a note pad in front of you and if someone is speaking for a long time, you can jot down notes of things you might want to ask them about, good points in the conversation, or things you’d like to comment on. This way, you’re not interrupting the speaker (which is good), you’re keeping your thoughts organized, and you’re writing things down – which is a way of improving comprehension when listening.
Is being knowledgeable of the subject matter being discussed important? Yes, absolutely, but conversations are nothing without active listeners. Take the example with my husband – sure he can repeat what I’m saying, but did he really comprehend anything I said? Maybe – I’ll probably never know. What listening skills are you bringing to the table to improve your communication on a conference call?