How Well do you Listen?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Most people can talk about themselves and their ideas, jobs, plans, friends, etc. on and on. And yet, the ones that truly stand out -- in business and in life -- are those who cannot only talk but also LISTEN.

And by listening we don't just mean saying "uh-huh" every now and then in polite conversation. If you want to be heard when it's your time to speak, you must also learn how to listen well.

Active Listening Techniques

Pay attention. When someone is speaking to you, pay attention! Move closer to them and maintain eye contact. If in a crowded and noisy area, turn your head so that your ear is close to the speaker. And don't just take note of the words you hear. Look at his/her face and take note of the facial expression of your speaker and other body language.

Don't prepare. Part of listening attentively is NOT planning what YOU are going to say when it's your turn to talk. If you do this, you're only half-listening because you're already busy formulating your response. So don't prepare; just listen to the one speaking.

Convey that you're paying attention. Give the speaker clues that you're listening by making a few gestures such as nodding your head, smiling when appropriate, laughing when necessary, and so on.

Interjections such as "really?", "uh-huh", "no way!", and others also help relay to the speaker that you're listening to what's being said.

You may even want to "return the story" by saying something like "so let me see if I have this straight, you mean . . . ". Feel free to ask questions too. This conveys to the speaker that not only are you listening, but that you are interested in the conversation.

Another situation where you may need to clarify with a speaker is when he/she is speaking in a slightly different tongue or tone. He/she may be pronouncing the words differently and rather than just ‘drift off', ask politely for the speaker to repeat or clarify certain things he's said.

Don't interrupt. One common mistake of most people in a conversation is that they keep interrupting the speaker. Not only is this rude but you run the risk of completely misunderstanding what's being said because you didn't give the speaker a chance to finish his story. So give the speaker the time he deserves before you join in.

Listening is really an integral part of ANY relationship. Pay attention at how you listen to others. When you hone this skill, you'll find yourself naturally getting better at communicating with others.

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