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How to improve your listening skills

19 Jun 13:00 By Vanessa Dolan

Improve Listening Skills Vanessa Dolan

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they only listen with the intent to reply” Stephen R Covey.

Having the ability to listen is one of the most important skills that you can learn. Companies love to hire employees who have good listening and communication skills.  In fact, poor listening on behalf of an employee can end up causing organisations huge losses each year due to mistakes.

There are many reasons to become a good listener, as doing so allows you to become more efficient and productive, gives you the ability to demonstrate empathy and build better relationships with everyone.

Listening carefully when someone speaks to you, can help you communicate more effectively. Listening requires concentration, which can be developed into a habit with effort and practice. Because effective listening can improve communication, proficient listening is an important skill for anyone. When you work to improve active listening skills in business situations, you can enhance your communication with clients, peers and employees.

Here are some tips to think about:

  • Clear your mind of distractions when you need to listen actively. Make a conscious effort to focus only on listening to the person speaking to you.

  • Sit or stand so you face the speaker. Make your body language communicate your interest to the speaker. Establish eye contact to communicate your active listening.

  • Remove distractions as much as possible. Eliminate background activity and noise to enable you to concentrate on listening. Put electronic devices away and silence music if you can.

  • Encourage the speaker with nods and affirmations, as appropriate, so the speaker knows you are listening.

  • Stay focused on listening without turning your mind to your response. If you are formulating a response in your mind, you stop listening actively and you may miss important information. Instead, continue to listen while the speaker speaks. When the speaker finishes, take the time you need to formulate your response.

  • Notice nonverbal communication from the speaker. You can gain clues about how a speaker feels by observing body language. Wringing hands or flailing arms can indicate high emotion or stress.

  • Resist the urge to interrupt. When the speaker finishes or pauses, ask questions or make comments, if appropriate. Look for something to validate about what you just heard because this can help the speaker know that you were actively listening. Another response to active listening may be to reflect or paraphrase what you think you heard to ensure that you understand.

  • Continue listening as the speaker responds to your questions or comments. A conversation with an employee/employer might involve asking questions to get additional information. As you ask careful questions, you gain understanding, which can enable you to offer feedback, if appropriate. 

If you want to delve deeper on listening and people skills, I highly recommend “People Skills” by Robert Botlon, feedback from people was that it was extremely beneficial.