Listening is one of the most important parts of communication, but you're probably not very good at it. The conventional wisdom says to nod your head, make eye contact, and mumble affirmative noises to show you're listening. Of course, that's not listening if you're glancing at your phone. Knowing the difference between good listening and pretending to listen can make all the difference to your company's profits.

Studies have shown that great communication is important for a company's success. According to a 2009/2010 Willis Towers Watson report, companies with highly effective communication showed returns to shareholders that were 47 percent higher than companies with ineffective communicators.

In NPR host Celeste Headlee's new book, We Need to Talk, she explains why your bad work habits are killing your ability to communicate well and what you can do about it.

You multitask all the time.

You probably think you can do two things at once really well. Maybe you pride yourself on your work efficiency as you type on your computer, send a text message, or scan an email and mumble affirmative noises to your work colleague at the same time to show your understanding about that problem down in shipping.

According to Headlee, research shows you're not as good or as smart as you think you are. A Stanford study revealed that when you multitask, your ability to do each task drops by 20 percent and a University of London study showed your overall IQ drops by more than 10 points. You may think you are doing well, but how can you judge when you're that stupid?

The real problem is when you multitask you get high. Really. According to neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin, switching from task to task quickly creates a dopamine rush. Every time you switch tasks, you get a jolt of pleasure until you are either depleted or left in a mental fog.

You like your tech toys too much.

If you want to have a really effective conversation, put the phone away, turn away from your computer, and shelve that report. Not only are those items demanding too much of your attention, your behavior is making a poor impression on your conversation partner.

According to Headlee, research shows that just having a phone visible in a room is bad for your conversation--even if the phone is on another table, turned off, and neither person owns it. In a UK study by Przybylski and Weinstein, researchers found when a visible phone was present in a room, the participants thought their conversation partner was more unfriendly, untrustworthy, and unlikeable.

Think about that the next time you set your phone down on a table in a restaurant or at a conference table. Or don't, because it will distract you from the conversation.

Be honest with yourself.

The key to communicating well is being completely honest. Not in conversation, though integrity is also key to a good conversation. I mean, be honest with yourself if you have the time to have a good conversation.

If you are too busy to be fully present with someone--technology off, and tasks stopped--then you do not have enough time to talk. Be honest with your conversation partner and postpone the conversation until you can give them your full attention.

You might be surprised at how much you retain, how much people like you, and how much more your business prospers when you do.

Published on: Jan 19, 2018
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