Listening is one of the most important skills you can develop. Your ability to listen effectively can greatly impact your job effectiveness and the quality of your business and personal relationships. Listening is important. We listen to obtain information. We listen to gain understanding. We listen for enjoyment. We listen to learn.
To become a better listener, one must engage in “active listening”. Active listening is a conscious effort to not only hear what another person is saying, but also to understand the message that is being relayed. To enhance your active listening skills, you need to show the speaker that you are listening to what he or she is saying.
Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message.
- Face the speaker squarely.
- Put aside distracting thoughts.
- Avoid being distracted by environmental factors.
Show that you are listening
- Nod occasionally.
- Make eye contact with the speaker.
- Smile and use other facial expressions.
- Make sure your posture is open and inviting.
- Lean slightly forward.
Provide feedback (summarize)
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 what is being said and ask questions.
- Reflect what is being said by paraphrasing.
- Ask questions to clarify certain points.
- Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically.
Active Listening Skills Key Points
Concentration is a key factor to becoming an active listener. If you are distracted by environmental factors, avoid eye contact with the speaker, and allow your filters to distort what you hear, then you can benefit from the following Key Points to Active Listening:
- Concentrate on listening, and make it your goal to truly hear what the other person is saying.
- Set aside all distracting thoughts and behaviors and concentrate on the speaker’s message.
- Paraphrase, reflect, and ask questions to ensure you understand the speaker’s message.
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A., Human Resource Development