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Home » Featured, Headline, Motivation, Problem Solving

Are you a good listener?

Submitted by on March 20, 2012 – 10:48 pmNo Comment

Author: Dr. Chandana Jayalath

Effective listening begins with recognizing how poor we really are at listening, and with developing a determination to work hard to improve our listening skills. We need to develop an attitude that says, “I’m going to get something out of this lecture that I can use no matter what it takes. Here are a few suggestions that will help improve listening skills. First, work hard to keep focus on the message and make a determined effort to return to focus when the mind begins to wonder. To help in maintaining focus, make mental summaries of the speaker’s main ideas. Second, try to predict the speaker’s next main idea. These two hints will help keep you actively involved in what the speaker is saying. Listening is a Bert Miller very difficult and an active process. According to, listening is just plain hard work.

Listening makes a significant component in effective communication. When clarifying expectations, understanding feedback, participating in meetings, coaching, mentoring, or mediating conflict, good listening skills are a must! This effective practice, excerpted from Becoming a Better Senior Corps Supervisor: A Resource Guide for Senior Corps Project Directors, by the National Crime Prevention Council and published by the Corporation for National and Community Service (1996), offers 24 tips to improve active listening skills. Although written for Senior Corps supervisors, the information is appropriate to supervisors across all streams of service, and can benefit both new and experienced supervisors

One of the most critical communication skills for supervisors is active listening. Active listening helps the listener to “hear the emotion and affirm the person.” It includes the concepts of attending, paraphrasing, reflecting feeling and reflecting meaning. Active listening includes listening with the body, eyes, ears and instincts, and temporarily suspending judgment.

The following effective practices will cultivate and/or improve active listening skills:

  1. Find a quiet, private place to listen. Hallways, shared offices, and other busy places are not conducive to active listening. A quiet spot works better for focusing attention and creating a non threatening environment.
  2. Want to listen. Almost all problems in listening can be overcome by having the right attitudes. Remember, there is no such thing as uninteresting people, only uninterested listeners.
  3. Act like a good listener. Be alert, sit straight, lean forward if that’s appropriate; let your face radiate interest.
  4. Listen to understand. Do not just listen for the sake of listening; listen to gain a real understanding of what is being said. applauded. Make the other person feel important. Applaud with nods, smiles, comments and encouragement.
  5. Stop talking. You can’t listen while you are talking. Communicate — don’t just take turns talking.
  6. Empathize. Try to put yourself in the other person’s place so that you can see his or her point of view.
  7. Concentrate on what the other is saying. Actively focus your attention on the words, the ideas, and the feelings related to the subject.
  8. Look at the other person. Face, mouth, eyes and hands will all help the other person communicate with you and help you concentrate too — show you are listening.
  9. Smile appropriately. But don’t overdue it.
  10. Leave your emotions behind (if you can). Try to push your worries, fears and problems away. They may prevent you from listening well.
  11. Get rid of distractions. Put down any paper, pencils or anything you may have in your hands; they may distract your attention.
  12. Get the main points (the big story). Concentrate on the main ideas and not on the illustrative material. Examples, stories, and statistics are important but are not usually the main points. Examine them only to see if they prove, support or define the main idea.
  13. Share responsibility for communication. Only part of the responsibility rests with the speaker; you as the listener have an important part. Try to understand; if you don’t, ask for clarification.
  14. React to ideas, not to the person. Don’t allow your reaction to the person to affect your interpretation of words. Good ideas can come from people whose looks or personality you don’t like.
  15. Don’t argue mentally. When you are trying to understand the other person, it is a handicap to argue mentally while you are listening. It sets up a barrier between you and the speaker.
  16. Use the difference between the speed at which you can listen and the speed at which a person can talk. You can listen faster than anyone can talk. Human speech is about 100 to 150 words per minute; thinking is about 500. Use this rate difference to your advantage by trying to stay on the right track, and think back over what the speaker has said.
  17. Don’t antagonize the speaker. You may cause the other person to conceal ideas, emotions, and attitudes in many ways: arguing, criticizing, taking notes, not taking notes, asking questions, not asking questions. Try to judge and be aware of the effect you are having on the other person. Adapt to the speaker.
  18. Avoid hasty judgments. Wait until all the facts are in.
  19. Develop the attitude that listening is fun! Make a game of seeing how well you can listen.
  20. Put the speaker at ease. Help him or her feel free to talk.
  21. Be patient. Allow plenty of time. Do not interrupt. Avoid heading for the door.
  22. Hold your temper. An angry person gets the wrong meaning from words.
  23. Go easy on argument and criticism. This puts others on the defensive and they may “clam up” or get angry. Don’t argue: even if you win, you lose.
  24. Ask pertinent questions. This is encouraging, shows you are listening, helps to develop points further, and is essential for clarification.

Although the skills of active listening may seem awkward or forced at first, with practice they will feel more natural. Active listening, if practiced faithfully, will generate attitudes of tolerance, understanding, and non evaluative acceptance of the other.

To provide support and feedback, the first step must start withstanding so that one can understand and properly provide what people need. Listening is the administrative model beyond 1980s instead of talking and giving orders. To perceive a message accurately, listeners must concentrate on what is being said, how it is being said, and in what tone. Part of effective listening is properly reading non verbal cues. Concentration requires listening to eliminate as many extraneous distractions as possible and to mentally shut out the rest. Preconceived ideas can give no chance to listen effectively but lead to premature judgments.

Goetsch suggests a checklist for effective listening.

  1. Remove all distractions
  2. Put the speaker at ease.
  3. Look directly at the speaker
  4. Concentrate eon what is being said.
  5. Watch for nonverbal cues
  6. Make note of the speaker’s tone
  7. Be patient and wait
  8. Ask clarifying questions
  9. Paraphrase and repeat
  10. No matter what is said, control your emotions

Having said this, most people have room for improvement in their listening skills. C Glen Pearce recommends that managers apply the following strategies for improving listening skills.

  1. Upgrade the desire to listen
  2. Ask the right questions
  3. Judge what is really being said
  4. Eliminate listening errors

In a nutshell, good listening means receiving the message, correctly decoding it and accurately perceiving what it means. Successful managers work diligently to engage others in their cause. Oddly enough, the best way, to engage others is by seriously listening.

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