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Weekly Tip for Apr. 6, 2021

How to listen actively and create a real connection

Have you been in a situation when you were discussing a topic with others and you were thinking about your next argument, while the others were talking? This is a common habit for many of us, but it limits us from understanding deeply where the other person is coming from. It is the opposite of active listening and we can easily be trapped in this – especially in more heated discussions.

When you actively listen to another person, you focus completely on what they are saying and how they are saying it. You try to get all the nuances, both of the verbal and non-verbal communication. Is the other person smiling or leaning back? Are the arms crossed? Do the legs show in the direction of the door as if they want to escape as fast as possible?

Asking follow-up questions instead of coming back with an answer also belongs to actively listening. I’m practicing this skill a lot during my podcast interviews to more deeply understand the other person’s view or the details of the topic. Paraphrasing the information helps also to improve your understanding of other viewpoints and to show that you really want to understand them. You can start such paraphrasing with “Do I understand correctly, that ….”.

Summarizing a longer conversation also helps to ensure that you got the most important points. As with noting the follow-up actions at the end of a meeting, you can check what you have understood thus far with the other person during a 1:1.

To actively listen to the person, you need to skip any judgments or advice. This is more easily said than done, as statisticians and data scientists are trained to look for solutions. To come up with suitable solutions, you need to understand the problem first.

Don’t be too hard on yourself when you practice active listening. When you recognize you are falling back into old patterns, just accept it and get back to active listening.

Get to action in your next 1:1 conversation! It may surprise you what will happen.

This week’s tip was contributed by Alexander Schacht, PhD. Alexander helps statisticians and data scientists to be more effective in their work with his The Effective Statistician podcast, a leadership program, and free webinars. He’s also leading the department of statisticians at UCB responsible for launch and commercialization. Learn more from Alexander on The Effective Statistician podcast. Find it on any podcast app, Youtube, Spotify or listen here in your browser http://theeffectivestatistician.com/.

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