So much of what we do every day relies on good listening and communication skills, and it doesn’t always go the way we plan or expect.
The good news is that effective listening and communication skills can be learnt like any others.
Getting your message across and connecting effectively with others involves more than just relaying a message. Good listening and effective communication helps us to get things done, builds trust and confidence in others, and enables us to develop deep and rewarding relationships.
So there’s a lot to gain by being a better listener and communicator. This journey starts by acknowledging the big difference between “hearing” and “listening”.
How hearing and listening are different
Communication involves hearing – of course – and that’s about perceiving sounds. Hearing others clearly is key to starting a conversation, but hearing is different to listening.
Listening (rather than just hearing) means we’re processing and interpreting the sounds that we hear, allowing us to understand others and communicate in turn. “Listening” means we’re actively paying attention to what someone is saying. While hearing is passive, listening is active, and it takes effort and focus.
It’s a two-way street, of course: if we communicate clearly, we make it easier for others to understand us, too.
Being a great listener means taking responsibility for what we say, too. Consider whether other people usually understand you easily. Do you make it easy for them?
If you - like most of us - sometimes have trouble being understood, that’s where the “7Cs” of communication can help. These simple tips can help to boost your listening skills and enable you to communicate more effectively - so you’re not only heard but also understood.
The 7Cs of communication
The 7Cs of communication outline some of the characteristics of effective communication. It’s a simple checklist to make sure your communication is clear, well-constructed and effectively gets your message across. It also requires us to listen, and to get feedback and cues from our audience as well.
If you’re having trouble communicating with someone in any aspect of your life - be it work or home - mentally run your communication style through this checklist and see how and where you might be able to focus and improve for greater effect.
Here’s our 7C checklist. For communication to be effective it should be:
Be clear about your message. Use short sentences and break up any long sentences into shorter ones. Use plain language rather than formal, vague or technical language which can confuse the message. Be clear in your delivery, as sometimes people might not be able to hear you. For example, they might have trouble understanding speech in noisy situations. If that’s the case, move to a quieter area. If that’s not possible, then speak slowly and clearly, facing the person you are talking to, and don’t turn your head away as you speak. Also, speak normally and avoid exaggerated speech, as that’s even harder to understand.
Stick to the key points and keep your message brief. Avoid repeating information unnecessarily. Can you cut out “filler” words or unnecessary information? Can you convey the same meaning in one sentence instead of five? Cut any unnecessary waffle, and just get to the point. Your audience will thank you for it.
Be specific and clear. Give real-world examples that are meaningful and paint a picture for your audience. Use research, facts and details to support your main points and create a memorable message. As they say, a picture paints a thousand words. Also, avoid vague statements that may be meaningless, and don’t overload the listener with unnecessary information.
Tailor your communication to your audience and take time and care to get things right. Business communication that’s free of errors establishes authority and trust. If you’re communicating through writing, check your spelling and grammar, and ensure all names and titles are correct. Read through emails before sending them. Communicate with your audience in mind. If you’re sending a management report to the board versus sending an email to your local bushwalking group, then the tone will be different in each, but both still need to be accurate and well written.
Ensure the key points are relevant to the topic and flow in a logical order. Stick to the topic without veering off course, which can confuse the reader or listener. Have a structure and flow to both verbal and written communications. More formal communications - both written and verbal - tend to have a beginning, middle and end. If you need to deliver an important or formal communication - like a speech or a presentation - then plan it out in advance, with a simple clear structure and some supporting points.
Think about the recipient of your communication, and what you want them to know, feel or do. Make sure you provide the information that enables the reader or listener to take the necessary action. They might need names, dates, locations, times or other details. Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes, and make sure your communication is complete and delivers all they need to know. This also cuts down on unnecessary back-and-forth too.
How we communicate has changed a lot over the years, becoming more informal than it used to be. Social media has spawned a new style and form of communication too. If anything, this has made communication more informal and personal than it used to be. What hasn’t changed however is the need to be polite, friendly and sincere in your communication, and to show you respect the reader or listener. It’s important to also use language that’s positive and inclusive of others. The Australian government has published some inclusion guidelines
if you’re looking to brush up on the latest workplace standards. Remember to use respectful terms to sign off your emails too.
Hearing is critical to good communication
While we can practice and improve our verbal communication skills - both as a communicator and listener - success is of course predicated on the ability to listen and hear.
If you feel your hearing is limiting your communication with others, think first about your environment. Often, one of the first signs of hearing loss is having trouble hearing in a noisy environment.
If you think your hearing has changed, there are a couple of quick, simple ways to check your hearing online. A speech perception test (SPT)
is a simple online test that checks what you can and can’t hear through a series of spoken words. It takes about 5 minutes and you get the results straight away.
While the speech perception test doesn’t diagnose the problem with your hearing (if there is one) it’s a quick way of finding out whether you might have an issue that could benefit from further follow up.
Another test, a speech in noise test (DTT) is similar but adds in background noise to the test. You can also do these tests while wearing a hearing aid, which is handy, as it can measure how well you’re hearing with the help of your hearing aid too.
We’re here to help
Hearing loss can creep up on you without noticing. If you don’t have a hearing aid but you suspect your hearing isn’t what it used to be, we can help. You can do a quick, free online hearing test
, or book an appointment
at one of our many clinics located across Australia.
If you have any questions about your hearing or hearing aid and you’d like to talk to one of our friendly and experienced hearing consultants, then book an appointment with our team today. You can call us on 1300 104 730
or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org