We all know people we work with who could benefit from knowing when to speak less and listen more. These people can talk forever, tell entertaining stories but always dominate conversations and never pause to allow others to speak. As international managers, we need to know when to speak, when to pause and when to listen. The most effective international managers limit the time they spend talking and invest more time into listening. Therefore, emphasis shouldn’t always be put on the message you want to communicate. Instead, sometimes you need to listen before you can develop a strategic message.
Regardless of the positions you or the participants in your conversation hold, do not listen to plan an immediate response. When you do this, you are often not listening to what is truly being said and often anticipating what the communicator will say next. Instead, focus on listening to the complete message without interruption.
How do you know when someone is listening? Here are some indications of a real listener:
1. Active listeners focus on the communicators and look them in the eyes.
2. Active listeners understand and can summarize your points.
3. Active listeners ask clarifying questions.
4. Active listeners display interest and become participants in the conversation.
5. Active listeners are the best participants in an exchange.
While active listeners are easy to identify, so are uninterested listeners, poor listeners and listeners who can’t understand the material. Poor listeners and those who don’t understand the material often display blank stares, wandering eyes, fidgeting hands and shifting postures. Sometimes poor listeners are so busy looking for ways to interject their opinions that they miss what is being communicated. Listeners who can’t understand the material may not have the knowledge to understand the material or may require a certified translator who can provide assistance in another language.
Instead of interjecting and promoting your own ideas, take the time to speak less and listen more to what is being presented. When you listen, you will absorb important information that you can process and analyze when developing an opinion or forming a rebuttal. When you follow this method, you are better able to make a positive contribution to your organization, understand the situation better, and demonstrate legitimate concern. Once you have a good understanding of the material the presenter is offering, you will be better prepared to develop and share a useful response.