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Manager’s Checkup: How well are you listening?

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

To get the information you really need to do your job well, you have to listen—not just "hear," but really listen. How's your approach to active listening? Take this quiz and find out:

1. You've asked Bailey from Maintenance to come up and check the alarm system. He sighs and says, "I'll do it if I can get around to it." You reply:

a. "You better get around to it, or I'm calling your boss."

b. "If there's a problem, I'll be glad to help out."

c. "Are you saying you may not have time today?"

2. Inez stops by your office to say,"I'm having a tough time concentrating with my husband in the hospital. The kids are unhappy and I haven't been sleeping." You say:

a. "Why don't you take some time off?"

b. "Sounds like you're pretty worried. How can I help?"

c. "We need you to pay full attention at work."

3. Your boss calls you to say, "Sales is putting a lot of pressure on me to speed things up. They're making promises we're going to have a hard time keeping." You say:

a. "So Sales wants us to increase production?"

b. "They've got a lot of nerve!"

c. "I'll step things up right away."

4. You've requested two weeks' vacation over the holidays. As that time comes closer, you remind your boss, who groans and mutters, "I guess you're due for some time off." You say:

a. "Terrific! I've got some great plans for my time away."

b. "Has something changed since we scheduled this?"

c. "If it's going to be inconvenient, maybe I'd better not go."

5. Nedra stops you in the hall and says, "I've come up with a great cost-cutting idea!" You say:

a. "Let's make an appointment and you can bring me a written proposal."

b. "Go ahead and put it in the suggestion box."

c. "You sound excited. What's the idea?"

What do your answers mean?

The best answer in each case reflects a key skill of active listening—one of the "four R's":

1. C. Rephrasing what you've heard can help clarify Bailey's ambiguous message. Otherwise, you're jumping to conclusions.

2. B. Reflecting Inez's feelings helps you communicate on an emotional level and find out what she really wants and needs.

3. A. Sometimes, simply repeating what you've heard—with a little bit of rephrasing in this case—is what's needed to signal you've gotten the message.

4. B. Requesting additional information is a good way to navigate situations that present this sort of conflict.

5. C. A combination of reflecting and requesting responds best to what Nedra is actually trying to tell you.

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