The Power of Listening

Dear Christian Radio,

Is anybody really listening?

In 1971, Albert Mehrabian published Silent Messages, a book in which he discussed his research on non-verbal communication. He concluded that prospects based their assessments of credibility on factors other than the words the salesperson spoke—the prospects studied assigned 55 percent of their weight to the speaker’s body language and another 38 percent to the tone and music of their voice. They assigned only 7 percent of their credibility assessment to the salesperson’s actual words.

For leaders, remembering the “7 Percent Rule” is a crucial ingredient for successful communication. Failing to remember the importance of body language and tone can lead to huge misunderstandings and ineffective leadership.  We can’t just assume that our own words, or those of our team members, can be taken at face value.  Observing the words that are said and how the person behaves while saying them requires the development of active listening skills.

When a team member comes into your office with a question, how do you position yourself? Do you glance up from your computer screen and only half acknowledge their presence? Are you only somewhat engaged when they are trying to tell you something important because you are checking your phone for new messages?

Taking the time to step away from the computer, even to come out from behind the desk and sit with a team member, speaks volumes about the team member’s worth in your eyes. If you want to communicate value, trust, and confidence, demonstrate these things by giving your team members 100% of your attention. Show them with your eye contact and body language.

Conversely, when you are really trying to confirm that a team member is listening to you and your instructions, admonishments, ideas, or information, what is their body language like? Are they seated facing you? Are they giving you good eye contact? Are they providing non-verbal cues that they truly understand your message?

Learning to observe how people act when listening to you is crucial to developing your own interpersonal communication skills. These skills will help you develop your team. When your on-air personalities or promotion staffs are interacting with listeners at concerts, for example, your coaching on active listening can help them really connect with the audience.

We are so used to multi-tasking as broadcasters. We sit behind microphones in a studio fiddling with the board, setting up the next segment, all while shuffling various papers in front of us. This may work for our day-to-day tasks, but it doesn’t work when we are with people. People have eyes and ears…not to mention, feelings. Therefore, since they too are created in the image of God, they are equally worthy of the investment of your time—really listen to them.

Dear Christian Radio, take the time to learn how to be an active listener:

  1. Observe the 7% rule and use your body language and tone to reinforce, not compete with your message.
  2. Give your team members your undivided attention by closing your laptop screen or stepping away from your computer and putting your phone or other devices away.
  3. Become a student of body language and learn what non-verbal cues mean. Use your observations to help team members grow their active listening skills.

Jerry Grimes
Vice President of Creative Services
Positive Alternative Radio


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