Tips For Becoming A Good Listener

If you want to become a valuable asset to your company, become a good listener so you can learn to benefit from and help others.

The old adage reminds us that we are born with two ears but just one mouth, suggesting we should listen twice as much as we speak.

In addition, we need to become skilled listeners so that we can benefit from information shared by others as well as provide a response that will benefit them as much as ourselves.

Listening is hard, because it means turning off our thoughts and emotions to focus on those of the person who is speaking. Most of us prefer airing our own ideas over listening to those of others. Yet many companies today will pay an expert trainer to come and educate employees about how to effectively use their ears in the workplace.

Good listening skills can be learned rather easily. All it takes is a little bit of time and a commitment to the task.

1. Stop talking. If your mouth is moving, your ears must be at rest. Give your mouth a break and let the ears do their job. When someone else is speaking, give that person your full attention. Don't interrupt except to ask a brief question for clarification or to make an affirming sound, such as "uh huh," "oh!" or "hm."

2. Affirm what you hear. When the person stops speaking, repeat back in your own words what you thought you heard. Ask if that is what the speaker intended. If not, allow the person to explain further and again try restating the main idea until the two of you agree on the basic message. This may take a few passes, especially if conflict is involved.

3. Be patient. Avoid the temptation to finish other people's sentences for them. Give them a chance to say what they mean, even if they stutter, pause, or change verbal gears.

4. Redirect to the focus if a speaker digresses. While nodding sympathetically as the speaker heads down a tangential road, watch for a lull and say something about the original topic:

"So it sounds like the report will be due soon."

"Did I understand your main concern for this project to be the budget?"

5. Use body language to support your listening skills. Adopt a listener's pose: eyes fixed on the speaker, occasional nodding or smiling in response, facing toward the person, arms relaxed, no fidgeting or looking at your watch or the wall clock.

6. When the person finishes speaking, ask questions as needed. Jot down answers so you can take needed information with you.

7. Arrange for follow-up details. If you would like further resources, ask the speaker if you can email the request or telephone when the person's schedule is not busy. You also may wish to exchange business cards.

8. Maintain courtesy even if you disagree with the speaker. Never heckle, argue with, or rant against the speaker, no matter what is said. Save your opinions for a private meeting. Be polite and respectful, and fully hear the person out. You'll make yourself look bad if you respond in an emotional or inappropriate manner.

Listening requires the art of tuning in to another person and maintaining full attention until the person stops speaking. While this can be difficult with long-winded people, a positive outcome can be achieved with a willingness to hear what the other person wants to convey.

© High Speed Ventures 2011