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Listening skills can help relieve office stress

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

"Stress-induced depression is on the rise and is predicted to be the leading occupational disease," says author and consultant Scott Hunter. "This should be no surprise when gossip, petty jealousy and ... adversarial communication pervade many office environments. Many employees — and too many managers — lack the tools necessary to communicate effectively." Here are some of Hunter's suggestions:

- Listen with compassion. "Life is a difficult and challenging enterprise for everyone," Hunter says. "It's important for you to deeply appreciate coworkers' feelings and experience. Listen with understanding to their concerns." Don't be quick to respond or offer advice, and don't try to console, he adds. "People are usually not interested in an intelligent response, nor do they want your well-intentioned advice or sincere consolation. What most of us want is simply to be heard."

- Don't sell out. "In a competitive work environment where everyone is trying to prove some personal value just to survive," Hunter says, "fear and intimidation are frequently the tools used to control and manipulate others." It's important to stand up for yourself and to encourage your team members to do the same. Do not tolerate abuse, and "stay true to yourself and your own standards of behavior."

- Look for the best in people. As a manager, of course, it's important for you to pay positive attention, through praise and recognition, to your team members. "We are not expected to be perfect," Hunter says, "and other people's strengths don't automatically translate to our weaknesses." He encourages us to "make an effort to get to know your co-workers better" and learn "what it is about each individual that makes him or her a valuable contributor" to the enterprise.

- Communicate upsets. "Human beings live with the illusion that unexpressed anger, upset, and disappointment will simply disappear over time," Hunter says. "Nothing can be further from the truth." Find ways to communicate anger or hurt feelings without at the same time offering judgment or laying blame on others for "making" you feel that way. "Only communication can provide salvation for continued viable and productive relationships."

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