There are many variations of active listening available on the internet. Over the next few days I am going to take you through the eight strategies used successfully world-wide by those involved in crisis negotiations.
Effective Pause & Silence
An effective pause is a short piece of silence placed at the beginning and at the end of an important statement which helps to highlight what you are saying. It is like a verbal bold and underline to reinforce the delivery. As humans we love to communicate and we dislike silence, we like to hear noise all the time. (Too often though we like to hear the sound of our own voice!)
A short pause used in this way will get the person's attention as they listen intently for a sound, your next words. Don't leave the pause for too long otherwise it will interrupted by the person asking you a question and your important message will be lost.
Silence (not saying anything) is a longer pause and used a number of ways. The first is when someone is talking flat out and allows you to identify their problem. When someone is talking the best thing to do is to let them continue so that they can maintain their flow of thoughts. Stopping someone in mid-flight is similar to stopping someone during a sprint race, they will have to start again slowly to gather momentum.
Another use of silence is when a person is being untruthful. At the completion of their sentence, restrain from talking despite your inherent desire to do so, and watch how effective it serves your purpose. If the person is lying and asks if you are listening, respond with “Yes, and I want to ensure I record what you have said accurately”. This is a way of signalling that you disbelieve their last sentence and recording it for future reference.
A further use of silence is when someone is reluctant to talk. Generally, the less that someone is talking the more we have to talk as this will encourage dialogue. If this doesn’t work however then resort to saying nothing and wait for a response. They will eventually ask if you are still there and you respond with “Yes, and I want to hear what you have to say”.
Tomorrow we will look at the last of the eight strategies for active listening, the summary.