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Listening: It’s complicated

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Even if you want to listen well, many obstacles stand in the way. It’s not enough to tell yourself, “I’m just not very good at listening.” Armed with that excuse, you won’t try as hard to concentrate on what you hear.

Instead, commit to changing your communication habits. Examples:

Monitor your speak-listen ratio. You may know that you’re a talker, but that doesn’t mean you should dominate every conversation.

Limit your speaking so that you let others do the heavy lifting. Allow them to change the subject—or backtrack—as they please. Keep a mental tally of the subjects they cover.

Tap your reserves of patience. Most speakers do not summarize their thoughts in pithy, memorable sound bites. Instead, they may ramble, trail off or repeat themselves.

If you feel impatient, ask yourself, “What is this person trying to say?” Listen intently to uncover the core message.

Stay focused. Resist the urge to think of what you want to say whenever someone is talking to you. If you start planning your next comment, you might miss something important.

Compare content with silent cues. You may understand the content of what someone says. But good listeners also observe a speaker’s body language to gauge whether their nonverbal cues align with what they say.

For example, an employee may promise to meet your deadline (“I’ll submit the report by Friday”) while signaling doubt with excessive frowning or nervous tics.

— Adapted from “Leadership goes wrong when you just don’t listen,” www.cityam.com.

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