Three Steps To Improving the Way You Listen: Key Communication Skills

Do you know someone who thinks they're a great communicator but who drives you crazy? Maybe he has a fund of stories that he rolls out at every opportunity, whether you've heard them before or not. 

Or maybe he caps every remark you make with one of his own. You know how it goes. You say, "I broke my foot," and he says, "I did that last year and the doctor said it was the worst fracture he ever saw."

A teenager I know started at a new school so she had to catch a different bus in the morning.The first day, she came home full of enthusiasm for a new friend.
"He's so funny," she said. "We just laughed all the way. I nearly fell off my seat."

I bet you can guess how she felt after two weeks. 
"I'm hoping he won't be on the bus today," she said. "He never shuts up and it's all about himself."

Yes, you may be more shy, less extrovert, more self-conscious than others: but chances are you're a better communicator if you take the time to listen instead of talking. 

Here's how to do it in three easy steps:

1 Make sure you really understand what someone is saying to you. Ask questions to keep yourself focused on him. "What happened next?" or "Why do you think that happened?" Who/what/when/how/where/why questions are a great way to keep the conversation going. 

2 Check back with him that you've understood. "So you didn't enjoy the day at the sea?" 

3 Watch his body language. If he's looking down, or out of the window, he may be really upset. If he's leaning back and smiling, things are OK. Be sensitive to his mood: his dating disaster may sound funny to you but if he's devastated, it's cruel to laugh.

TOP TIP You can help change  his mood if he's miserable. Get him to look up at you and he'll  feel a little better. We don't say "chin up" for nothing. (Don't say "chin up" by the way. It's annoying. Just stand back so he looks up at you. That's subtle.)

Got more top tips on listening? I love to hear them. Just leave a comment and spread the word.

Want to know more about communication skills ? Try these posts:

How to Make a Good Impression

How to Learn to Speak the Same Language

The Secret of Using All Your Five Senses

How to See Things From His Point of View

How to Avoid the Unscrupulous Salesman’s Language Traps

How to Banish Guilt Through Positive Thinking

How to Get Agreement with Communication Skills

Help To Tell Your Story in Court: Witness Intermediaries

Today's post is a little different, as it's especially for anyone who has communication problems (or knows someone who has) and is involved with the justice system in England and Wales.

For tips on verbal and non verbal communication, and links to other posts on the site, click here.

If you’re a child, or you’ve got autism or ADHD or had a stroke, a court appearance may seem scary.

A court is a strange place. The judge and lawyers wear wigs and gowns.  The room’s full of jury members, mysterious officials and odd members of the public, watching from the gallery.

Everyone uses strange language and talks too fast.

The good news is that the judge really wants you to be able to tell your story. He or she can make changes to help you.
  • There’ll be other adults there as well, whose job is to help you.
  • You may be able to talk to the court from a separate room, through a video link.
  • Maybe the judge and barristers will take their wigs off, so you can see that they're ordinary people.
Witness Intermediary
You need to understand all the questions anyone asks you,so you may have a witness intermediary, like me, with you. 

I work with people who have been a victim of crime, or know about one. I also work with a defendant,  who's been accused of something and is in court to stand trial. 

This is what people like me do. We've had special training and we're registered with the Ministry of Justice.
  • We spend time with you, to find out a bit about you.
  • Then we write to the courts. We tell them about any problems you have with understanding or talking.
  • We meet with the judge and the lawyers before the trial.
  • We may be there with you, in the separate room, called the ‘live link’ room. 
  • We can ask for a break if you get tired.
  • We can suggest other ways that the lawyer asks you a question, so you understand it. 
  • We can point out to the judge if you get confused.

Remember, the judge wants you to have your say.
  • ·         if you have difficulty in listening and concentrating,
  • ·         if you find it hard to understand what people say,
  • ·         if talking is difficult,
ask the police or your solicitor if a Witness Intermediary might be able to help.

Here's more information about special measures in England and Wales.


I write this Communication Blog

My photo

Frances Evesham: on the run around Europe for years, with only a husband, three children and a succession of opinionated cats to keep me out of trouble. Somerset stopped me in my tracks. Now I walk in the country and breathe sea air. I will get around to cleaning the house soon.

I've been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper. I sometimes work in the criminal courts to uphold fair questioning of people with special needs.

I smell the roses, lavender and rosemary as I cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other. Writing historical romances and books on communication leaves enough time to enjoy bad jokes and puns and wish I’d kept on with the piano lessons.