True listening requires effort.

Listening is a skill that requires effort and impacts relationships. Any disagreement with that statement?

Listening requires focus and attentiveness and the desire to truly process the message with the intent to understand.  Issues arise when we get distracted or “tune out”.

Here are some tips for improving our listening skills:

  • No interrupting
  • No multi-tasking
  • Be aware of body language, expressions, and tone
  • Listen for underlying meanings
  • Be open to differing views
  • Retain eye contact (this helps with attention levels)
  • Don’t suggest words or finish sentences when a pause occurs
  • Don’t solve or judge
  • Ask probing questions to obtain clarity and recap what you think you’ve heard

We also need to be aware of when and why we “tune out”. Sometimes it’s the timing of the conversation, perhaps the topic, and it can even be the person delivering the message.

Why? We all have filters and baggage that may cause “selective” listening. Think about your business relationships. Are there individuals that you seem to always be fully engaged with and others that you have the inclination to “tune out”? Does the “deliverers” age, skill, gender, title, general demeanor affect your ability (and desire) to be an active listener? What else de-rails your ability to listen? 

The term ‘Active listening’ was coined by psychologists Carl Rogers and Richard Farson in 1957 and they say “Active listening is not an easy skill to acquire. It demands practice. Perhaps more important, it may require changes in our own basic attitudes”.

Awareness is key. Pay attention to your “non” listening behaviors ex. pencil tapping, raised eyebrows, blank stares, “zoning” out, making shopping lists, etc. Also, think about any colleagues you may have a “history” with for losing focus. That’s the kind of relationship that requires that you make a special effort to remain engaged and not tune out.

What changes can you make to truly listen regardless of who’s delivering the message?

Mike and Jan

The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication,
and clear communication is necessary to management success.
–James Cash Penney

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