Listening Skills 101


Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.  

Stephen R. Covey


Listening is an important part of the communication process, but it's not given the attention it deserves. All too often, we rush to interject our own thoughts and opinions instead of truly listening to what the other person is saying. As a result, miscommunications are common, and they can often be quite confusing or even disappointing. If you find yourself frequently misunderstood, it may be time to sharpen your listening skills. Pay attention to both the words and the tone of voice being used, and try to resist the urge to interrupt. By taking the time to really listen, you can improve your communication skills and avoid frustrating miscommunications in the future.

Implement these strategies to strengthen your listening skills:

1. When someone is talking to you, be fully immersed in the conversation. Because most of us can't do two tasks at once (or at least do them well), stop what you're doing when another person speaks to you.

* If you're unable to pause what you're doing, let the person know. Ask the communicator to stop speaking for a bit, and mention briefly why you're asking them to wait.

* Say something like, "Can you wait just a minute? I'm adding up these figures. As soon as I'm finished, I can listen to you."

* Avoid attempting to communicate with others while watching television or playing games because these distractions will hamper your efforts to listen carefully.

2. Body language is integral to listening. As soon as you're ready to listen, turn your body toward the communicator.

* Leaning toward the person who's speaking also demonstrates that you're paying attention to the speaker's every word.

* Refrain from performing tasks that require you to turn your body away from the speaker, for example, doing dishes.

3. Make and maintain eye contact with the speaker. In most western cultures, eye contact sends the message, "I hear you. I'm listening."

* Furthermore, holding eye contact with the speaker says, "You have all of my attention at this moment."

* Be aware that the meaning and impact of eye contact varies from culture to culture. So, if you're involved with cultures other than your native culture, it's recommended to learn about that particular culture's view of eye contact.

4. Focus your thoughts on the person's words. Refrain from trying to think about how you want to respond while the person is speaking.

* Your goal in listening is to grasp what the speaker is trying to get across to you.

5. Share with the person what you just understood him to say. When the speaker ceases talking, take the opportunity to check out what you heard.

* Try stating aloud back to the communicator what you believe you heard.

* Here's an example: "So, you can't pick up the kids after school today because you have a dental appointment at 3:00 p.m. You want me to pick them up, right?"

6. Let the speaker clarify. As the listener, stating what you heard allows the speaker to correct or clarify his remarks. The speaker then hopefully replies something like, "Yes, that's right. Can you do it?" or "No, I'm not talking about today, I'm asking you to pick up the kids tomorrow because of my dental appointment."

7. If you're in a relationship, listening skills are important building blocks to strengthen the relationship.

* A common complaint of people in partner relationships is, "My partner doesn't listen to me."

* Because partners communicate daily, it's easy to slack off using these skills at home.

* Even so, partners can apply the above suggestions on sharpening listening skills to enhance their communication with each other.

When you understand what you're being told or asked, effective listening has taken place. If you believe you could benefit by focusing more on people who are speaking to you, you aren't alone.

Strive to strengthen your listening skills. You'll be a better communicator and your relationships with others will thrive!

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