Listen Up: Leveraging Your Listening Skills is More than Hearsay!

Do any of the following remarks sound familiar?

  • Excuse me, what did you say?
  • Would you mind repeating that?
  • I’m sorry but I didn’t catch what you just said.

Whether you’ve heard these remarks from others, or you, yourself have said them, it’s symptomatic of the fact that listening is generally low on the list of our priorities. Who’s got the time, anyway? That’s precisely the problem; each of us is busy and will be getting busier, but learning the art of listening is in fact a time-saver!

Let’s consider the following scenario:

You attend a meeting at work where you don’t really listen because you have other projects on your mind. You feel you can’t really spare the time to even be at this meeting. At the conclusion of the meeting, your boss asks you to follow-up on an item discussed at the meeting. You realize you were not listening that closely, and now have to go back and take the time to check with someone else to get the information you need. Have you saved time? No. Not only have you not saved time, but you’ve now created yet another task for yourself that will further eat away at your time.

How about when someone stops in to see you unexpectedly and you “pretend” to listen, or you’re on a phone call and are multitasking? The list goes on and on and inevitably you find you fall into the habit of not fully listening to someone. Clearly, we’re all “guilty” of this habit now and then. The point is that ensuring excellent communication revolves around how one listens.

Easy tips to change your listening behaviors:

1. When someone stops in to see you or calls you unexpectedly, they should ask if this is a good time for you. If they don’t, then it’s in your best interest to assess if you truly have the time or not. You can say: “I’m glad you called (or stopped by), but I’m right in the middle of a task. Is it possible for me to call you (or stop by) later today?

2. When you arrange to meet with someone or have a scheduled call, determine an estimate of how much time you or he/she needs, and carve that time into your schedule. This ensures that the appropriate amount of time is earmarked and allows you to concentrate.

3. When you’re meeting or calling someone, make a point of eliminating distractions. These include incoming e-mails, faxes, phone calls (including cell phones), interruptions from other people, and papers stacked in your in-box. Barring emergencies, if we want to be fully present when listening to others, we want to make our physical environment free of distractions, even if it means meeting somewhere other than your office.

4. If you’ve followed tip #3, it makes it easier to avoid multi-tasking. While it’s certainly tempting to get several items on your “to-do” list accomplished simultaneously, it will absolutely undermine your ability to listen.

5. Often when listening to others, we’re prone to interrupting because we don’t want to forget something or we have a profound thought to share. This is where taking notes is beneficial. As we jot down a key word or idea, it frees us up to listen more attentively.

6. Critical to improving how one listens is the ability to ask questions. As we process information we hear, there are some points that will need clarification or examples. An effective listener will communicate this to the speaker to ensure they fully understand what’s been said.

The greatest compliment we can pay to another person is to truly listen to them. Think about how this impacts you when you speak to others. So, whether you’re an employer, employee, self-employed or pursuing employment, leveraging your listening skills is more than hearsay. Have you been listening?

By: Dale G. Klein, M.A., Corporate Communication & Speech Specialist, © 2008, Profitable Speech, LLC A Sound Investment®. All rights reserved.