Join Brenda Bailey-Hughes for an in-depth discussion in this video Paying attention to delivery, part of Effective Listening.
- Have you ever caught yourself counting how many times a speaker says "um" or "like"? Or maybe you've been in a meeting with someone who had spinach at lunch and still has a little bit stuck. Or do you tune out when a speaker is reading from his notes or the PowerPoint? You may find yourself so distracted by delivery issues that you forget to tune in and practice your best listening behaviors. How can we be less distracted by delivery? Remind yourself that you aren't there to judge the delivery abilities of the speaker.
Rather, you are here to learn something from what they say. In the case of the annoying speaker who overuses filler words such as "um" or "like" or certain pet phrases, you can just tell yourself, "Noted." Now, shift your thinking, focus on the content. Test that you really are focused on content by making yourself mentality paraphrase what is being said. If you had to summarize the conversation to someone else, what would you say? If you force yourself into listening well, you may feel less distracted by those verbal fillers.
When it comes to nonverbal distractions, you may be able to remove it. For example, you might say to the speaker, depending on your relationship with the person, the setting and who else is in the room, "You have a little something on your teeth." You save the speaker the embarrassment of going through an entire meeting with spinach flapping and you save yourself the pain of spinach distraction. If the delivery is not just a mental distraction, but for you, it's something that actually makes it hard to understand the speaker, then you may have to take a different approach.
For example, what if someone is so soft-spoken that you have a hard time hearing her? Or what about someone who mumbles or has a pronounced accent that makes it hard for you to understand certain words? Should you just fake understanding to be polite? No. Let me tell you how I learned this lesson the hard way. I have a neighbor who mumbles when he speaks. My husband and I were out taking a walk one night and Mike, the mumbler, drives by in his truck, he stops, backs up and rolls down his window to talk to us.
Well, between the mumbling and the noise of the truck, I really couldn't understand or hear what he said. It sounded like, "The kids came over." And I thought, "Oh, well how nice. "His grandchildren must have been here for a visit." And so I say, "Oh that's great. How old are they?" Now Mike looked at me sort of strangely and said, "We don't know. We got them from a neighbor." Huh? My husband said, "Take care Mike," and sort of grabbed my elbow and propelled me down the road.
I'm completely mystified. "What did he say?", I asked my husband, who said, "He said, the cat got run over," to which I replied, "That's great. How old are they?" I have to say Mike still acts a little cautious whenever he's around me and I learned never to allow inaudible speech. Ask for clarification if you didn't understand someone. It's even okay to ask someone to speak up or, "Please, slow down for me a bit." International students tell me that they can always tell when their native speaking friends are acting as if they understand them when they really don't.
True listeners don't just pretend to listen. True listeners listen to understand. Don't let delivery stand in your way of being a true listener.
- Recalling details
- Avoiding distractions and the feeling of being overwhelmed
- Clarifying your role
- Using attentive nonverbal cues
- Paraphrasing what was said
- Matching emotions and mirroring