Tips for active listening

Listening well is one of the most important skills you can learn.
How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others.
• We listen to obtain information.

• We listen to understand.

• We listen for enjoyment.

• We listen to learn.
Given all this listening we do, you would think we’d be good at it! In fact we’re not. Depending on the study being quoted, we remember a dismal 25-50% of what we hear. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers or spouse for 10 minutes, they only really hear 2½-5 minutes of the conversation.

Turn it around and it reveals that when you are receiving directions or being presented with information, you aren’t hearing the whole message either. You hope the important parts are captured in your 25- 50%, but what if they’re not?

Clearly, listening is a skill that we can all benefit from improving. By becoming a better listener, you will improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade negotiate. What’s more, you’ll avoid conflict and misunderstandings.

25 Tips for Becoming an Active Listener
01. Find a quiet, private place to listen.
Hallways, shared offices, and other busy places are not conducive to active listening. In a quiet spot you'll be better able to focus your whole attention and create a nonthreatening environment.

02. 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.

03. Act like a good listener.
Be alert, sit straight, lean forward if that's appropriate, let your face radiate interest.

04. Listen to understand.
Do not just listen for the sake of listening; listen to gain a real understanding of what is being said.

05. React.
The only time a person likes to be interrupted is when he is applauded. Be generous with your applause. Make the other person feel important. Applaud with nods, smiles, comments, encouragement.

06. Stop talking.
You can't listen while you are talking. Communicate - don't just take turns talking.

07. Empathize.
Try to put yourself in the other person's place so you can see his or her point of view.

08. Concentrate on what the other is saying.
Actively focus your attention on the words, the ideas, and the feelings related to the subject.

09. Look at the other person.
Face, mouth, eyes, hands will all help the other person communicate with you and help you concentrate, too - show you are listening.

10. Smile appropriately.
But don't overdo it.

11. Leave your emotions behind (if you can).
Try to push your worries, your fears, your problems away. They may prevent you from listening well.

12. Get rid of distractions.
Put down any papers, pencils, etc., you may have in your hands; they may distract your attention.

13. Get the main points (the big story).
Concentrate on the main ideas and not on the illustrative material. Examples, stories, statistics, etc., are important but are not usually the main points. Examine them only to see if they prove, support, define the main ideas.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. Use the difference between the speed at which you can listen and the speed at which a person 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.

18. 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, etc. Try to judge and be aware of the effect you are having on the other person. Adapt to the speaker.

19. Avoid hasty judgments.
Wait until all the facts are in.

20. Develop the attitude that listening is fun!
Make a game of seeing how well you can listen.

21. Put the speaker at ease.
Help him or her feel free to talk.

22. Be patient.
Allow plenty of time. Do not interrupt. Avoid heading for the door.

23. Hold your temper.
An angry person gets the wrong meaning from words.

24. 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.

25. Ask pertinent questions.
This is encouraging, shows you are listening, helps to develop points further, and is essential for clarification.

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