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The Secret to Better Communication Skills

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 1:33pm | by Helen Hoart

If you want to get ahead in your career, start by working on becoming a better listener. Without the ability to listen effectively, we are likely to misunderstand what’s being said and that can result in poor performance. The ability to listen well is cited as the communication skill most lacking in new employees.  And on average, we spend 60% of our time listening at working. 

How do you become a good listener?  By practicing.  That’s right, practicing.  What we think we hear isn’t always what was said.  Listening requires complex thinking abilities.

The way to become a better listener is to practice “active” listening. This is not for the faint of heart.  It’s hard work. In active listening, we strive to understand what the speaker is saying, as well as the emotions behind the concept and the conclusions. Active listening involves verbal and nonverbal communication--observing body language and noticing inconsistencies between verbal and non-verbal messages. For example, if someone tells you a new product or a proposal has a high likelihood for success but they are not engaging you directly, they may not fully believe in their product.

The HURIER Model

Use the HURIER model to become a better listener. The acronym HURIER stands for: Hearing, Understanding, Remembering, Interpreting, Evaluating and Responding.

Of course we need to hear what is being said. Often when someone talks, though, our minds start to wander. When you notice this happening, bring yourself back to the present and tune in.  Acknowledge that you sometimes tune out and make a commitment to stay present.  You can’t hear if you’re not present.

Understanding means your ability to accurately grasp the meaning of someone’s spoken and nonverbal message. Check to make sure you are absorbing the meaning.  Ask yourself—do I really understand what is being said. If appropriate, ask pertinent questions.  And don’t forget non-verbal cues.

Remembering is your ability to store, retain and recall the information you have heard.  Remembering takes energy.  Remind yourself that you want to actively remember and recall the information.  After the speaker has finished talking, take a quick mental inventory: what do I recall; what do I remember.  Tip: visualizing can help you remember.

Interpreting is your ability to empathize with another person’s feelings without judging the message.  When we start judging what is being said, our listening skills decrease because we’re busy rebutting what the person has to say rather than listening.

Evaluating is your ability to analyze and make a judgment about the validity of someone’s message. It’s important to think critically about what is being said.  But judgment only comes after we have opened our ears and mind.

Your ability to respond indicates you fully understand someone’s meaning.  Have you said something very important to someone and had them just look at your without any response.  It’s disconcerting.  A response shows that you have heard and understood the message.

Do you have any other tips that have helped you become a better listener? 

Eileen Sterrett contributed to this article.

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