the art of listening

We all know how important the skill of listening is – most of us have been reminded of this many times since we were very young. Somehow, however, even though we understand and agree with its importance, most of us haven’t really developed our listening skills much beyond mediocre. How good are your listening skills? Take this simple test:

a. Have you ever had someone say to you, “I just said that.”

b. Have you ever found your thoughts drifting when someone else was speaking?

c. Have you ever been introduced to people, only to forget their names a minute later?

d. Do you check your computer while talking to people on the telephone?

e. Do you sometimes find yourself thinking about your response when another person is speaking?

Chances are you answered “yes” to at least one of these (or, if you’re like most people, you answered yes to all of them). Welcome to the world of the average listener.

Is the skill of listening actually important? Regardless of what you do, the answer is an unequivocal yes. Better listeners make better bosses, more valuable employees, more effective service providers, higher producing salespeople, better parents – the list goes on. Listening is, in many ways, more than just a skill. It’s an attitude. To be good at it, you must be passionate, involved and interested. Here are some tips for becoming a better listener:

1. Stop talking – especially about yourself.

2. Don’t ‘multi-task’ while listening. It is physically impossible to listen at a high level while doing a second activity.

3. Use words and phrases that prompt people to talk more.

4. Immerse yourself in what the person is telling you. Don’t let your mind wander.

5. Ask questions – lots of questions.

Work on your listening skills. Practice them. The payoff is huge. Good listeners are scarce, and very much in demand!

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