Listen Up Good Communication Hinges on Hearing Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” It may be hard to admit, but listening isn’t always easy. In fact, poor listening is the most common communication problem. And when club communication breaks down, service can break down. “An ineffective communicator will not be able to engender enthusiastic support. Projects won’t get the time and effort they need; they won’t be finished on time or as successfully as they could,” explains Past International Director Rick Myers, whose presentation “How Well Do You Communicate?” was featured at the 2012 USA/Canada Forum. Fortunately, by following a few simple rules of active listening, Lions can turn rocky communication into smooth sailing, or elevate already decent communication to new heights. Seek to Understand Always seek first to collect information and comprehend others, so that you will then be better understood as well. “We have a lot of very strong people in my club. That’s a huge asset. But there are times when opinions clash, and I wonder if some feel hurt,” says Pat Duncan of the Lake Tomahawk Lioness Club in Wisconsin. Duncan attended the “Communicate Like a Leader” seminar offered by Multiple District 27 last spring. The seminar was created so that Lions can “work together to improve communication in a non-threatening learning environment,” explains a seminar facilitator and Past District 27 E2 Governor Connie LeCleir-Meyer. It helped Duncan better learn how to mediate strong opinions and make sure every voice is heard. “It helps to summarize and reflect back to the group what you interpreted them saying. We bounce off of each other to clarify things so no one is misunderstood,” says Duncan. Hold the Judgment Empathetic listening is non-judgmental listening. “Avoid prejudging what is being communicated and keep an open mind. You will not only avoid jumping to incorrect conclusions, but will be more likely to hear fully what the other person has to say,” says Myers, a member of the John C Fremont Lions and associate member of the Elkhorn club in Nebraska. Columbus Lion Christine Bennett, who also attended the communication seminar, was glad to receive a reminder of this communication basic. “I remembered to take the time to listen without judgment, and then think about my response before speaking,” says Bennett. Offer Undivided Attention Whether you’re speaking to one person or 100, no one wants to feel ignored. Through lack of eye contact, negative body language and other non-affirming signals, the speaker can quickly shut down and feel unvalued. “Someone who attends with the whole body, avoids gazing around the room, paraphrases occasionally, makes eye contact and nods is letting the speaker know they have been heard, appreciated and understood,” explains Myers. Achieving stellar communication is an ongoing effort that takes the participation and willing ears of all club members. But when it works, nothing can better help Lions serve at their best, as Duncan points out. “While our club is small, we manage to put on two major events in our town. This simply couldn’t be done if we didn’t have the communication skills needed to keep us all on the same page.” –Jennifer Gilbert Gebhardt Looking for more listening tips? Sign up for the “Effective Listening” course offered through the Lions Learning Center at lionsclubs.org.
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