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5 Tips for Improving Your Communication Skills

Every day people speak to you. But are you really listening—or are you merely hearing? Listening skills are especially criti­cal in doing a job accurately and fos­tering good relationships—not to mention understanding others’ needs. Here are five tips to improve your lis­tening skills:

• Assume an attitude of listening readiness. Listening is active, not passive. Be mentally and physically ready. Don’t answer your phone or check your PDA. It is also rude to answer a cell phone. Doing so shows lack of respect for others and will make people feel less important than the call you answered.

• Write thoughts down. You don’t have to pretend you are writing a novel, but jotting an occasional key word or fact can improve retention. The speaker also will feel flattered that you are tak­ing time to note his or her thoughts.

• Paraphrase the other person. It helps you stay alert and atten­tive, and you will be less likely to mis­understand what was said.

• Assume an uncomfortable position. If you are sitting on the edge of your chair or leaning against a wall with your hand, you won’t be so comfortable that your mind roams. Listening needs to be active. When you are too comfortable, you can become passive.

• Listen as though you need to report the information to others. Ask yourself “What’s in it for me?” Then listen to make sure you under­stand correctly the content and the feeling behind it. By actively practicing these effec­tive listening pointers, you will be able to vastly improve your communication skills.

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