How do you know if someone is listening to you and understands what you are trying to communicate? You need to get some type of feedback from that person in order to know that s/he was listening, and understood the message you wanted to convey.
A formal way to give feedback to a speaker is through a process called active listening. Active listening is simply reflecting back to the speaker the message you heard, so that you can either confirm or correct your understanding of that message. To achieve this, ask questions or make statements that will prompt the speaker to comment on your reflected message.
There are two ways to reflect back the speaker’s message: restatement and paraphrasing.
The restatement method involves restating the message that you heard using the speaker’s own words. For example, you come home from work one evening and your husband/wife says, “You wouldn’t believe the day I’ve had. The phone was constantly ringing, my computer kept crashing , and I didn’t even have time to eat lunch. I am not moving from this couch the rest of the night.” You could restate your spouse’s message by saying something like, “So you didn’t even get to eat lunch, and you aren’t moving from the couch the rest of the night. It sounds like you’ve had a terrible day, with your phone ringing and your computer crashing.”
Phrases such as, “It sounds like . . .” or, “I hear you saying . . . is that right?” are intentionally tentative so the speaker can either confirm or correct your understanding of his/her message. These questions and statements should be followed by a noticeable pause in speech and body language, which serve as invitations for the speaker to comment.
The other method you can use to reflect back the speaker’s message is paraphrasing. Think back to the previous example. To paraphrase your spouse’s message, you would say something like, “It sounds like you’ve had a hectic day, and you just want to relax the rest of the night.”
Again, the statement should be followed by a significant pause in speech and body language, to prompt the speaker to let you know if the message you heard was the message s/he intended to send.
Active listening techniques force you to listen to what the prospect is saying, and enhances your ability to interact with prospects in a way that provides positive results for you.
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Excerpted from The President’s Club Professional Development Program, ©2000, Sandler Systems, Inc.