Everyone in HR understands the importance of listening. We read about it all the time. We are trained in the value of active listening when interviewing or interacting with employees. However, I learned in a conversation with Paul Endress that active listening is not enough. To be very good listeners we need to be engaging in “reflective listening.”
Paul Endress is a creator. He has founded nine companies, some successful and some not. During that career of creation, Paul also learned the importance of communication. As a result, he has created a company, Maximum Advantage, based on the concept of the importance of communication. As a speaker, Paul understands the importance of verbal communication, but he will tell you that the biggest impact of communication is not in speaking but in listening. He told me that generally most of us spend 80% of our time talking and only about 20% listening. This is the reverse of what it should be. As a result, he has developed what he calls the Communication Equation. To him, effective communication is 2/3 listening and 1/3 talking. But the listening is not just an activity to fill the time until you have a chance to talk and it is not just being “active.”
As I mentioned above, many of us are taught to be “active listeners”, meaning that we give positive feedback to whoever we are listening to in the form of nods, or verbal feedback in the form of the occasional “that’s interesting” or “I see.” Paul says, that although this is better than nothing, it does not really add a lot of value to the conversation. At least the listener knows that you have not fallen asleep. Paul says that what you really need to do is engage in reflective listening, where you really try to figure out what the speaker is saying, rather than just parrot back what they say. You alter what was said in an attempt to interpret what was said. This may not be the best example, but if the speaker says “I am having trouble making my point with Fred” rather than repeating that, you say “What I am hearing is, you need to find a more effective way to talk to Fred, in order to be able to get your point across.” (In all honesty, I made up that example, not Paul Endress. To get a much better example you need to attend his session.)
Effective communication is uncomfortable
There are a couple of more components of communication that Paul will be addressing in his presentation. One of these is the physiology of listening. Akin to body language (an assumption on my part), Paul says that 55% of communication is physiology. This nonverbal transmission comes mostly from the hands.
Paul also will talk to us about the fact that truly effective communication is initially uncomfortable for most of us. Generally, this stems from the fact that most of us did not have a good role model for effective communication and learning the correct way requires us, and the ones we are communicating with to stumble as we learn a new way.
Paul Endress is a returning speaker for SHRM. His session, Reflective Listening: The New Way to Solve Problems and get Cooperation will be held on Monday, June 18th, at 10:45 am. I am planning on attending because I want to learn more from this fabulous speaker. I hope to see you there.