The Art of Conversation

Are you truly listening or pretending to listen?

As an author, motivational speaker and former CNN anchor, Sharon Frame spends a good deal of her day providing information. However, she’s learned through experience that the key to successful communication is listening. Through her work, Sharon helps business owners, executives and leaders improve their communication and listening skills to maximize employee performance. Too often, she says, we engage in conversation not really paying attention to what the other person is saying. Instead, we “act” as if we are listening while formulating a response to a message we have only half heard. This approach does not honor what the other person has to say or his/her point of view, she explains.

How do we become active listeners? Sharon says it takes intention and practice; a good way to start is to re-state what the other person has said, beginning with “What I hear you saying is…” In this way, you are telling the other person how he/she is coming across. You are also signaling that you are paying close attention and value what the person has to say. Checking in with a question such as, “Did I get that right?” can also help you rephrase your understanding of the other person’s position to avoid miscommunication.

Sharon also explains how careful listening can pay off in building great culture and consensus. She talks about the art of compromise, of giving a little to get a little, and of finding common ground. In those instances where there is disagreement, respect for the other person’s point of view, along with kindness and patience, can ensure both parties leave the conversation with their self-worth intact.
In television you encounter a lot of different types of people, and they have different proclivities. There are those who want to shout at the top of their lungs to get their point across, and there are those who are either meek and standoffish, and there are those who just want to be led as to how to converse, and I perhaps am like a referee.

What I do in that regard is to first of all, honor what the other person has to say. Because oftentimes in the listening process we're not listening to the content of what a person's saying. We're just in our minds thinking what will I be saying next? And that does not honor that person's point of view.

So some of the wonderful things that we could do is say to ourselves in a conversation, "What I hear you saying is . . ." Because that way it alleviates the misinterpretation of information. "What I hear you say is . . . Did I get that right?" And that kind of helps to subside the angst and the anxiety in conversation, because what you're doing is you're telling the person, "I'm listening to you, and this is what is coming across. Am I right?" That kind of taps down the anxiety a lot.

So that's one thing we talk about, honoring a person's word. Making sure they know that I value what they're saying. And also reaching a place of compromise where I don't always have to be right. You don't always have to be right in a situation, and it's okay if we come together, and I give a little, and you give a little, and we find that common ground. That's again, about the issue of love. Being patient and being kind to each other because the end result is to have a profitable conversation. The end result is to have a better relationship, right?

If that's the end result, then what steps can I take now as a communicator to make sure I'm honoring what you've got to say? I might disagree, but I want to make sure I leave and reserve space to honor what you've got to say. So as I talk to people, and we come to some sort of understanding of what good communication and good decision making's all about, is to make sure we honor each other in what we have to say, because everybody brings word to the conversation whether I disagree with you, or I agree with you.

And secondly we've got to spend time listening to people, as opposed to just acting as though we're listening just so we can have a response.

And then thirdly we want to make sure we understand you don't always have to walk away right. You don't always have to be in the vein of wanting to win the conversation, or be the one with the last aha punch, because that's not the objective. The objective is to make sure that I walk away feeling whole, and you walk away feeling whole, and that we can have a better understanding of where I stand on an issue, and where you stand on an issue. Honor each other.

Sharon Frame

Sharon Frame is an award-winning CNN anchor and writer, dynamic international speaker and acclaimed author. Sharon combines her 20+ years in TV journalism along with her expertise in public speaking, marketing and sales. She works wit...

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