The majority of our time communicating at work is spent listening. Our decisions, actions and reactions are based largely on information we receive from others. Active listening requires focus, energy and involvement. The speaker in the communication process should be given your full attention, which includes reducing distractions.
Consider the following tips to increase mutual understanding when communicating with your employees:
Suspend judgement. It’s easier to hear what another individual is trying to communicate if we are able to suspend our own judgements. When we do that, our prejudices, preconceived ideas, and biases are put on the sidelines momentarily to acknowledge and validate the other person’s experience, opinions, and beliefs.
Paraphrase main ideas. This is one the most effective ways to confirm that mutual understanding has taken place. It helps both individuals involved in the communication process. The person receiving the information is able to clarify what they heard, and the person giving the information has the chance to evaluate whether what they said is what they meant to say.
Reflect feelings. There is an element of emotion present in almost every interaction. Acknowledging these emotions can add depth to the conversation and make the interaction more meaningful.
Clarify with questions. It may be necessary to interrupt the other person in order to ask questions or clarify what you are hearing. Done appropriately, the interruption will not be viewed as disrespectful, but a way to ensure your understanding of what is being said.
Summarize. Once a decision is reached or action items decided, confirmation of the decision or next steps is crucial. Summarizing what you’ve agreed to will prevent misunderstandings or confusion.
Charlene Fitzpatrick is president of The HR Girl, a human resources consulting firm that works with for-profit and nonprofit businesses to build HR infrastructure, investigate and resolve workplace complaints, ensure compliance, and more. Find more of her advice on The HR Girl blog, where this article originally appeared in a slightly different version.