Speaking and listening are critical skills for anyone who wants to make a difference, as a leader, a parent, a spouse, a friend or a colleague. So… how much thought, time and energy have you put into actively developing your speaking and listening? If the answer is not much, here are nine secrets of powerful speaking and conscious listening.

The following is an extract from an article I wrote for GQ Magazine. Click here to read the full nine tips and tricks.

1. Speaking and listening are interrelated

Most people think it’s a linear relationship: I speak, you listen. Actually, it’s a circle, because the way you listen affects how I speak and the way I speak affects the way you listen. If you want to be listened to, the first step is to listen well yourself.

2. The human voice is the instrument we all play…

And yet very few people train or practise. If you use your voice to achieve important results – maybe teaching, selling, leadership or public speaking – then get professional support. Look up local voice coaches (acting or singing) and try a few until you find one you like. Work with them and over a few weeks your voice will transform into a powerful tool and one you understand how to use. The coach will help you to understand your vocal toolbox: breathing, posture, pace, pitch, register, rhythm, projection and use of silence.

3. When in conversation, remember ‘RASA’

R is receive: look at the person speaking, use attentive body language and give them your full, undivided attention. You can’t truly listen to someone and do anything else at the same time. A is appreciate: make little noises, expressions and movements to oil the conversation and show that you are taking in what’s being said. S is summarise: use the word “so” to gather up what’s been said, gain agreement and then move on to the next chunk of the conversation. The last A is ask: use questions throughout and at the end to show interest and engagement.

4. Remember that everybody’s listening is unique

We each have a set of filters through which we listen: our language, culture, values, attitudes, beliefs, expectations, intentions, emotions and assumptions all shape what we listen to and what we make it mean. It is a mistake to assume that everyone listens like you do: your listening is as unique as your fingerprints and so is everyone else’s.

To read the full article, check out the GQ website.