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English Communication Skill: Effective Listening Needs Questions

English Communication Skill: Effective Listening Needs Questions


Effective listening requires asking questions.  No one says everything you want to hear in the optimal order, depth, and detail that you are wanting.  You have to ask.  Questions are a way of getting the information you want or need.

In the American culture, our etiquette prohibits us from  barraging the other person with rapid-fire questions.  In American etiquette, questions are not confrontational, but simple easy-to-understand questions designed to elicit specific information.


Ask questions to battle jargon.

Don’t be shy or embarrassed about asking someone to clarify a statement which has an unfamiliar word or acronym.  Many people use jargon or language of their profession when they talk.  Be sure to ask the meanings of those words.

A slightly more difficult situation arises when you are in the same industry and the other person assumes you know the meaning of words that he or she is using.  You may feel embarrassed to ask for the meaning under that circumstance because you think you should know.  There are a few good ways to handle this situation.  My favorite response is this statement, “Just to be sure that we are using our vocabulary in the same way, tell me exactly how you define ABC.”  When the other person defines a term for you, you can respond:

  • That’s great. We use the phrase the same way.
  • Glad I asked; we use that phrase a little differently, but we can go with your definition.
  • I just learned something new.

If you think the other person is using the term drastically different than you are accustomed and some real damage may be done if you use the word their way instead of your way in a negotiation, say “We should define that term in the written agreement so others won’t get confused.  You and I know what we are talking about, but we want to be sure that everyone else does, too.”  Don’t get into a battle over definitions.

Be sure to watch our English Speech Tips videos and Accent Reduction Tip videos  for more English pronunciation and accent reduction exercise.

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