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.