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4 tips to improve your listening skills

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in Centerpiece,Office Communication,Workplace Communication

You’re on your way to a meeting or you’re in the middle of a project that requires your focus, when someone tells you something im­­portant. “Got it!” you say, as you continue with what you are doing.

Later, though, you realize that you weren’t fully tuned in. Because if you had been, you’d be able to remember the details of what the person said.

Good listening is a challenge at times. And research has shown that people process auditory information differently. “Linear” listeners take in information as it’s presented. “Associative” listeners tend to connect what they hear with what they already know.

Also, some people listen better if they’re taking notes. Others do better if they “play back” what they heard. Still others listen better when they’re standing up.

Consider what sort of listener you are. And then heed these tips:

•  Avoid the “noise” that gets in the way. When listening is crucial, step away from a phone that’s likely to start ringing or a computer that pings for your attention. Increasingly, co-workers are walking while they meet.

•  Arrive at meetings early. To do our best listening, we all need a mental transition zone between traveling to a meeting and the meeting itself.

Michael Kemp, a senior consultant at wireless service provider GoAmerica, suggests doing a preparatory self-assessment before a meeting. He says, “Ask yourself: Are you ready to be there? ... What outcome do you want?”

•  Check for balance in any conversation. Are you doing too much of the talking? That may be a reflection on your listening skills.

•  Ask clarifying questions. Here’s why: For one, asking questions is a way to signal that you’re listening and to encourage the speaker. Also, asking questions will help you retain the information you hear.

— Adapted from Face-to-Face Communications for Clarity and Impact, Harvard Business School Press.

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