Listening In a Meeting
Did you know that most of us spend 70% to 80%
of our waking hours in some type of communication? Of that time 45% of that time
is dedicated to listening. Other studies have found that most of us are poor
listeners. One study shows that after a 10-minute presentation only 50% of the
information was retained. The ability to listen well in-group meetings is vital
to be an effective participant and a good employee. Good listening is important
not only in the business world but also in life. First you need to know what
listening is and how it differs from hearing. Next we will go over guidelines
and a 10-step formula to good listening. Finally, some barriers to effective
listening and three ways to improve your listening will be discussed (Lee 2005).
Listening vs. Hearing
There is one basic difference between listening
and hearing. Hearing is a physical act while listening is the act of hearing
while also retaining and comprehending the information. Good listening can be
hard at times but it can be achieved by practice and hard work. Good listeners
can block outside distractions and focus on the subject matter at hand. There
are three basic ideas about what listening is. First, listening is focusing on
the person speaking; then taking in the meaning of the words, and absorbing the emotional content of the words. Listening is a skill that with time can be mastered. There
are six basic guidelines to better listening (Schilling 1999).
Listening in a business meeting is essential to
good performance. However, inattentiveness can become a barrier. These 6 guidelines can help in becoming better listener.
frequent eye contact with the speaker.
try to hear ideas and not just the words that are being spoken.
out thoughts that are not part of the meeting.
your attention span.
notes at the meeting
faults in speakers logic or delivery (Schilling 1999).
With these guidelines also comes a 10-step formula
to follow when listening. This helps in achieving those 6 guidelines.
10 Step Formula to Better Listening
an open mind
to ideas not words
for pause for questions
attention to what is not said.
Barriers to Listening
There are many barriers to listening attentively
and comprehending verbal communication. First unchecked emotions can play a large role.
Anger, fear, and depression can effect how one might listen to the speaker. Also
called emotional noise, this might cause listener apprehension. For example,
talking with a professor can be frightening, which might cause poor listening. Being
self-absorbed can also affect listening. Thinking about yourself or your next
comment stops your focus on the speaker. Language differences will cause a strain
on listening and comprehension. Also, external noise and verbal clutter can be
very distracting and will cause attention shifts among the listener. If the listener
is not interested or the information is not wanted, boredom can occur. Information
Overload can cause the listener to remove him/herself mentally from the discussion.
Also, Information rate will cause boredom or attention shifts. The average
speaking rate is about 125 words per minute while the brain has the capacity to understand 400 words or more. This means that only 25% of our brain capacity is being used. The
other 75% of our brain has nothing to do, so our minds will want to wander. Here
is a list of possible barriers to effective listening (Guidelines for Good Listening).
and verbal clutter
3 Ways to improve listening skills
1. Anticipate the speaker’s next point
2. Identify supporting elements
3. Make mental summaries
These three ideas can help in practicing to become
a better speaker. By anticipating the Speakers next point, the listener will
improve his/her attention span. Identifying main points will help in understanding
the ideas and meaning of the discussion. Finally making mental summaries will
help in reinforcing learning.
Listening is the most important tool in communication. Business meetings revolve around communication; therefore good listening is an essential
building block to having an effective meeting.
How to Join the Discussion
Good participants of business meetings know when
and how to join the discussion. Participants of a meeting are expected to give
their ideas and make contributions to help achieve the goal of the meeting. Active
participants do this very easily, but others find it very hard to effectively join the discussion and express their ideas
with everyone in the meeting. First, participants need to know when the right
time comes to join the discussion. They then need to know how to present their
ideas in a favorable fashion. There is a five-step formula to help in doing this. Also the bottom-line technique and politics need to be understood (Schilling 1999).
When to Join the Discussion
Good participants only join the discussion when
they have something to say that adds to the value of the discussion. Participants
should not be counterproductive by presenting information that is not relevant to the topic.
Members should always give short pointed statements that waste no time. Long
speeches and wordy phrases are unnecessary.
Avoid hanging over unimportant details. Knowing when to pick your battles is important. All participants
need to know when the issue needs to be debated and when it should be let go.
Never interrupt a speaker in the middle of the
sentence or an idea. This is just common courtesy but it also hurts the flow
of the idea.
Always ask questions when appropriate to help
clarify and understand the speakers meaning. If done correctly, everyone at the
meeting will appreciate good well-placed questions.
Formula for Presenting Ideas
the Idea through before presenting it.
about the best, crisp way to present the idea
benefits of the idea
prepared to defend the idea
out how to accomplish and action need to complete your idea
Following this formula will help in clear thinking. This mental process should be done before an idea is brought up at a meeting. Presenting ideas in this fashion helps ideas to become more logical and clear for
everyone at the meeting.
The Bottom Line Technique
The bottom line technique is the best way to present
an idea at a meeting. First the main idea is presented in the first two or three
sentences and then supported. It is a direct method where the listeners get the
idea first, then gets clarification and support to solidify the idea. With this
technique, ideas are brought out quicker and the discussion is able to move at a much faster pace (Lee 2005).
Politics of Presenting an Idea
All organizations have a hierarchy where some
individuals have more or less authority and responsibility than others. When
a boss offers an idea, it holds more clout, and usually inherits more consideration.
However, lower ranking members usually need to present their ideas more carefully and accurately for the idea to be
considered. Lower ranked positions should also discuss the idea with their superior
before the meeting, so there are no surprises. Again, all ideas should be well
developed before the meeting. Finally ideas must be clearly stated so everyone understands.
There are two things that a participant in a meeting
should never do. First, Don’t take ideas or credits that are not yours. This will cause displeasure of the person who initially came up with the idea, and
may cause a conflict at, or after the meeting. Also, Don’t criticize others
ideas. This might also cause conflict.
Use a positive tone to introduce alternatives to others.
Tips for Joining the Discussion
your need for attendance
your homework before meeting
Up when appropriate
should be on the problem