Listening is a lost art, especially in business. All of us are trying to accomplish so much that we tend to talk over each other or assume we know what is said. If you can master the art of active listening, you’ll be ahead, and your clients and colleagues will immediately know you are a consummate professional.
Active listening has many definitions, all with one goal in mind: to ensure the speaker is not only heard, but also understood. We’ve all had the frustrating experience of feeling as if the listener understood what we were saying, but he or she didn’t. Learning to listen actively will help you in all areas of your life, especially in your career as a business analyst, and it’s a skill worth cultivating.
When listening, clear your mind of distraction.
It’s easy to hold other thoughts in your head when you should be listening, but resist the temptation. When your brain is engaged elsewhere, you cannot be present and listening to the speaker . . . and you may miss some vital information or feedback. If you feel your attention wandering, focus on the speaker’s face.
Do not allow your emotions to interfere with listening.
At times, you will want to jump right in and interrupt the speaker. Don’t do it. No matter which emotions you may feel at the time, do your best not to show them, and don’t allow yourself to immediately begin talking when the speaker stops. You need a few moments to reflect and absorb what was said.
Often, BAs talk right over the person they are interviewing, and they miss or misinterpret what is being said. If you develop no other skill in the next three to six months, improve your listening skills.
Confirm what you hear.
When the speaker is finished, take a moment to collect your thoughts, and then mirror the speaker’s words with your own. For example, if the speaker told you about a specific software testing period the vendor suggested, you might say, “I understand that SAP has decided to test the software from June 1 through June 5, is that correct?”
This reiteration accomplishes two vital tasks: it makes the speaker feel heard and understood, and speaking the information helps you remember it easily. After you’ve confirmed what you’ve heard, be sure to ask whether you have all the information that you need. The speaker may remember something else after you ask.
These three steps will help you in your personal and professional relationships. They may appear too simple, but the magic lies in their simplicity. Learn more in my Mastering Business Analysis through Effective Communication course.