Here are the basic listening techniques to use when replying to an interviewee’s responses. Each can demonstrate that you’re pro-actively listening to the respondent which increases your listening efficiency as well as encourage the other person to continue talking.
Whether you’re simply trying to be more empathetic, or you’re using these techniques to learn more through Design Thinking to better understand the audience and their problems, these tips are essential elements of all communications.
1. Repeating What You’ve Just Heard, often called Mirroring
The easiest of technique, you simply repeat precisely what you’ve heard them say. You might add ‘… and correct me if I’m wrong’ after you’ve repeated it, to let them know you’ve not only wanting to hear, but hear exactly. If the respondent agrees what you’ve heard is correct, you continue the discussion. That said, be aware that repeating what someone said verbatim is mostly an act of remembering what you just heard. It does not necessarily – nor convincingly – demonstrate to the other party you understood what you said.
Like Repeating, Reflecting means replaying the person’s statement exactly; however, the primary point of Reflecting is wanting the respondent to hear themselves. (Let’s be honest, accurately listening to another person is a difficult act on its own. Listening accurately to yourself is even more difficult, if not possibly confronting.) Here, the purpose of reflection helps the other person develop a more thorough understanding of themselves, if not consider their words and emotion. Reflecting turns our intuition into knowledge, or the understanding of something more easily shared and discussed in a group.
3. Summarising and Paraphrasing
The next two techniques are similar as both demonstrate to the respondent two points: 1) their message was heard clearly, and 2) you understand their response so well you can interpret it back to them using your own words. They’re a shade different, in that …
- Summarise means to provide a complete and concise overview of what the respondent said, similar to ‘In ten words or less …‘ Summarising also helps an inarticulate person refine their answer. You might say: ‘So what I heard you just say is … (add your summary).’
- Paraphrasing means re-stating their answer using your own words, but without altering the meaning or context of what they said. Oftentimes, paraphasing helps shorten – and hopefully clarify – what’s they’ve said. You might say: ‘What you’re saying is this: (repeat but answer in your own words.)’
4. Itemizing your Response
This technique helps you to clarify a respondent’s answer by organising, if not prioritising the key messages. You might say: ‘Let me check my understanding. The problems you’ve outlined are (Point A), (Point B), and (Point C).” Again, not a bad thing to add ‘and correct me if I’m wrong’ in your own way.’
5. Agree & Acknowledge
This technique allows you to repeat the interviewee’s key points, and by doing so, you show you agree and want to expand your conversation, often to hypothetical or future considerations. You might say: “I agree with you that (Point X) and (Point Y) are the right steps to do. What do you think should happen then?”
This technique is similar to Open/Subjective Questions because you not only clarify key points, but also ask for their opinion or attitude. You might say: ‘You clearly believe that (Point A) and (Point B) need to happen very soon, but where and when do you think (Points X and Y) should be considered?’
And a few more bits …
Physically, use these techniques with good eye contact and an attentive posture, either standing or sitting. Minimise other things, such as put your mobile away, or move away from unnecessary. noise
Emotionally, squash your agenda (you are the least important person in every conversation), keep your opinion in check (don’t listen competitively), and stick to the topic (as in, don’t use their answer to change the conversation focus to you.)
Finally, even the best listeners have a difficult time listening well every day. That’s why it’s good to have more than one listener, if possible. It’s also why you should never facilitate or lead your own brainstorm or meeting. By itself, listening is a difficult skill. But to listen well, facilitate well, and write well is next to impossible – and more so, unnecessary. Assign one of more tasks to others.
Have you any other suggestions to listen more effectively? Please add your comments below.