The Art of Speaking  

Learning to listen

By Justina LeeStolz

Many people know of Toastmasters as an international speaking organization that churns out brilliant public speakers, but the less known or less advertised benefit of this organization is the incredible direction and focus on teaching people how to listen.

You can talk and talk for days and get nowhere, but true progress and advancement of communication comes from affective and active listening.

Think, for instance, of that one person you always see who just loves telling you all about their world; their life, their dog, their car and their troubles.

What a bore!

Now, think of that one person who you absolutely love talking to and running into even for a few minutes because you always walk away feeling fulfilled, inspired, motivated and satisfied.

The difference, likely, is that the second person is someone who talks with you rather than gabs at you.

When we dialogue with someone who shows a genuine interest in who we are, what we have to say and what we are up to, there is a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment because we have the opportunity to give and also to receive meaningful content.

How do we become better listeners? Just listen more? No, that’s obviously not working.

There is a skill and effort required to listen well and to be an active participant in an interaction and conversation with another. Toastmasters is an incredible starting place to learn the skills necessary to become an excellent listener; skills such as:

  • detail mapping
  • probing
  • attentiveness

What in the world are these fandangled listening skills?

Detail mapping is being able to hear, remember and organize key points that someone expresses to you that can be used to help understand and relate to their character and their overall viewpoint of the world.

Probing is an extension of detail mapping, which helps you to pull out key pieces of information to propel the conversation forward by asking more questions that allow the other person to keep talking and provide fuel to the dialogue fire.

It is always awkward to end up in a conversation where things seem to go stale and quiet because no one knows what to say next. Probing is a necessary skill to pull out easy conversation and talking points.

Finally, attentiveness. In a world of constant distraction and instantaneous responses, remaining attentive to a single conversation with a real life human can be, well, challenging.

One simple, simple key to focusing is to put your phone away. Sounds simple, right? Not so much.

When I say put your phone away, I don’t mean simply put it in your pocket, so you can’t see it; I mean, put it on silent (not vibrate as that’s still a distraction) and put it out of sight and out of reach.

Knowing your schedule, where you need to be next and setting that awareness and time expectation with your conversation partner is key to being able to remain present in the conversation until the moment that you need to leave.

You can read all about how to be a good listener, but the proof is in the practice. The more you practise, the better you get and the faster you improve.

What better place to be vulnerable in learning a new skill than with a group of people who are supportive and on their own learning pathway to success?

Toastmasters offers many useful and transferable tools to its members with listening being foremost one of the most valuable and underrated benefits.

Check out your local Kelowna AM Toastmasters group today.

Justina LeeStolz, Personal Real Estate Corporation | Realtor with Century 21. Contact her at 
[email protected]; 250-808-3638.


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About the Author

The mission of a Toastmaster Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment that offers every member the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

There are eight Toastmasters clubs in the Central Okanagan.

For more information and/or to find a club near you, check http://www.toastmasters.org.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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