The Focused Discussion Method can help you prepare for any number of situations, such as meeting with a prospective or current client, presenting new ideas to a group, or having a serious performance discussion with a team member or associate. Whatever the situation, chances are that you may be a bit nervous about the meeting, but your secret weapon is that you have practiced the techniques during role play.
If I were asked to offer a few key point on communication and listening, I would make certain to offer these 7 great rules:
1. Take notes. Taking notes forces you to process the colleague, client or customer’s contributions to the conversation, which means listening. Put away the paper and pen and you will be less effective.
2. Read back and rephrase. Make a practice of reading back or rephrasing the colleague, client customer’s points to ensure that you understand them. If you’re not reading back or rephrasing to confirm your understanding, there is less commitment to listening.
3. Don’t ignore what you don’t understand. Don’t be embarrassed or reluctant to let your colleague, client or customer know that you need some clarification on a particular point or issue. Asking for clarification will lead to the fundamental conversation about the colleague, client or customer’s needs.
4. Focus on the speech rather than the speaker. Don’t pay undue attention to the colleague, client or customer’s clothing, physical appearance, accent, accessories, and office decor. This will draw your attention away from the speaker’s message and keep you from listening. Don’t create distractions by using the opening moments of the meeting or conversation to gather personal information about the colleague, client or customer. After you have developed a clear understanding of the issues, you may use any remaining time to more thoroughly elicit any relevant personal information.
5. Wait to for your turn to speak. Often in our conversations, we are either speaking or waiting to speak. If we are waiting to speak, it means we may not be carefully listening to the issues being presented by the colleague, customer or client. One way to avoid this understanding trap is to be as neutral as possible. In other words, do not have an agenda at the outset. Note each point that is being made so you can address at the appropriate time. Your objective is to devote your full attention to understanding the issues or concerns of the speaker. You will get your opportunity to present your concerns or issues after you are certain that you understand the colleague, client or customer’s issues.
6. Don’t let your emotional reactions take control. If the customer says something that presses one of your buttons, maintain your composure so that emotional tendencies remain under control.
7. Don’t Interrupt. It goes without saying that when you’re speaking, you’re not listening. The mistake that you want to avoid is not allowing the customer, client or colleague clearly and fully explain their issues and concerns. Again, at the appropriate time, you will have an opportunity to cover the points that are important to you. Interrupting the customer, client or colleague has a negative and harmful impact, because it not only cuts off new information, it diminishes good will. I say this in jest: “If you can alienate the client, colleague or customer quickly, you can end the meeting sooner.”
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