Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others.
It’s a skill that we can all benefit from improving. By becoming a better listener, you can improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate. What's more, you'll avoid conflict and misunderstandings. All of these are necessary for workplace success!
The best way to improve your listening skills is to practice "active listening." This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, the complete message being communicated. To do this well, you must pay attention to the other person very carefully.
You can’t allow yourself to become distracted by whatever else may be going on around you, or by allowing yourself to get bored and lose focus on what the other person is saying.
Signs of a Good Listener
Good listeners always strive to fully understand what others want to communicate, particularly when the statement lacks clarity. Listening demands the attempt to decode and interpret verbal messages and nonverbal cues, like tone of voice, facial expressions, and physical posture.
Active listeners also show their curiosity by asking questions. Do this, and you will make a great impression.
Through body language and other cues, good listeners subtly communicate to the speaker that they're listening. Additionally, they encourage and welcome the thoughts, opinions, and feelings of others.
One way to demonstrate active listening is to allow the interviewer to complete each question and statement before responding. Do not interrupt and be sure that your responses genuinely answers the question. Remember that it's perfectly fine to take a few moments to frame the right response. Doing so shows that you've fully absorbed the speaker's words and are considerate enough to formulate the best answer.
Signs of a Not-So-Good Listener
Interrupting indicates that your listening skills are underdeveloped. Likewise, responding in a way that fails to answer the question will reflect poorly on your listening skills, especially in a job interview.
Talking too much is also problematic, as proper conversations should be well balanced, with parties getting equal time to speak. Monopolizing a conversation prevents you from listening and the other party from fully expressing what they want to say. In the end, this will lead to you making a poor impression.
Looking distracted is also a quality of a poor listener. This could involve anything from avoiding eye contact to checking your phone or watch while someone else is talking.
It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be an active listener. Old habits are hard to break but there are five key techniques you can use to develop your active listening skills:
Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message. Recognize that non-verbal communication can also speak volumes.
Show that You're Listening
Use your own body language and gestures to show that you are engaged.
Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect on what is being said and to ask questions.
Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message. Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions and be sure not to interrupt with counter arguments.
Active listening is designed to encourage respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. Be candid, open and honest in your response and assert your opinions respectfully. Always treat the other person in a way that you think they would want to be treated.
Having strong listening skills is essential at every organizational level. Start using active listening techniques today to become a better communicator, improve your workplace productivity, and develop better relationships.
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