“Most people are not very good listeners,” write Don and Sheryl Grimme in The New Manager’s Toolkit. The reason, the say, is that we spend our days juggling personal and professional issues, and find it difficult to focus entirely on those facing our employees and colleagues. When this happens, we don’t listen as closely as we should, and often jump to conclusions based on an inadequate understanding of the situation. This not only makes our marketing teams less effective, it alienates those offering the input and feedback we requested.

To remedy the situation, the Grimmes offer a step-by-step process for optimizing an active listening process:

Stop and give the other person your full attention.
Remain silent. Resist the urge to finish a sentence.
Collect facts, and assess what the person wants you to understand.
Ask reflective questions that paraphrase or rephrase a statement, e.g. “You want such-and-such. Is that right?”
Follow up with open-ended questions such as “What would you like to see happen?” or “Is there anything else?”

According to the Grimmes, a simple conversation with little emotional content might require only the first two steps. “[I]n other words, shut up and listen,” they say. But it never hurts to close with a reflective question that confirms or clarifies the conclusion.

Source: The New Manager’s Toolkit.