|7 Most Common Habits
of the Best Listeners
Listening is a critical skill that
research shows impacts up to 40
percent of your performance. Take
your listening to the next level.
|Listening is a bit like intelligence - most everyone thinks
they're above average, even though that's impossible.
"The word 'listen' contains the same letters as the word
'silent.'" --Alfred Brendel
Listening can influence up to 40 percent of a leader's job performance.
There's so much talking happening at work that opportunities to listen well
abound. We talk to provide feedback, give instructions, and communicate
deadlines. Beyond the spoken words, there's invaluable information to be
deciphered through tone of voice, body language, and what isn't said.
In other words, failing to keep your ears (and eyes) open could leave you out of
Most people believe that their listening skills are where they need to be, even
though they aren't. A study at Wright State University surveyed more than
8,000 people from different verticals, and almost all rated themselves as
listening as well as or better than their co-workers. We know intuitively that
many of them are wrong.
Effective listening is something that can
absolutely be learned and mastered.
Even if you find attentive listening difficult and, in certain situations, boring
or unpleasant, that doesn't mean you can't do it.
You just have to know what to work on.
The straightforward strategies that below will get you there.
1. Focus The biggest mistake most people make when it comes to listening is
they're so focused on what they're going to say next or how what the other
person is saying is going to affect them that they fail to hear what's being said.
The words come through loud and clear, but the meaning is lost. Focusing may
seem like a simple suggestion, but it's not as easy as it sounds. Your thoughts
can be incredibly distracting.
2. Put away your phone. It's impossible to listen well and monitor your
phone at the same time. Nothing turns people off like a mid-conversation text
message or even a quick glance at your phone. When you commit to a
conversation, focus all your energy on the conversation. You will find that
conversations are more enjoyable and effective when you immerse yourself in
3. Ask good questions. People like to know you're listening, and
something as simple as a clarification question shows not only that you are
listening but also that you care about what they're saying. You'll be surprised
by how much respect and appreciation you gain just by asking good questions.
In addition to verifying what you've heard, you should ask questions that seek
more information. Examples of probing questions are "What happened next?"
and "Why did he say that?" The key is to make certain that your questions
really do add to your understanding of the speaker's words, rather than
deflecting the conversation to a different topic.
4. Practice reflective listening. Psychologist Carl Rogers used the term
reflective listening to describe the listening strategy of paraphrasing the
meaning of what's being said to make certain you've interpreted the speaker's
words correctly. By doing this, you give the speaker the opportunity to clarify
what he or she meant to say. When you practice reflective listening, don't
simply repeat the speaker's words to the speaker. Use your own words to show
that you've absorbed the information.
5. Use positive body language. Becoming cognizant of your gestures,
expressions, and tone of voice (and making certain they're positive) will draw
people to you like ants to a picnic. Using an enthusiastic tone, uncrossing your
arms, maintaining eye contact, and leaning toward the speaker are all forms of
positive body language employed by great listeners. Positive body language is
a sign of emotional intelligence, and it can make all the difference in a
6. Don't pass judgment. If you want to be a good listener, you must be
open-minded. Being open-minded makes you approachable and interesting to
others. No one wants to have a conversation with someone who has already
formed an opinion and is not willing to listen. Having an open mind is crucial
in the workplace, where approachability means access to new ideas and help.
To eliminate preconceived notions and judgment, you need to see the world
through other people's eyes. This doesn't require that you believe what they
believe or condone their behavior; it simply means that you quit passing
judgment long enough to truly understand what they are saying.
7. Keep your mouth shut. If you're not checking for understanding or
asking a probing question, you shouldn't be talking. Thinking about what
you're going to say next takes your attention away from the speaker, but
hijacking the conversation shows that you think you have something more
important to say. This means you shouldn't jump in with solutions to the
speaker's problems. It's human nature to want to help people, especially when
it's someone you care about, but what a lot of us don't realize is that when we
jump in with advice or a solution, we're shutting the other person down. It's
essentially a more socially acceptable way of saying, "OK. I've got it. You can
stop now!" The effect is the same.
Bringing It All Together
Life is busy, and it seems to whirl by faster every day.
We all try to do a million things at once, and sometimes it
works out. But active, effective listening isn't something you
can do on the fly. It requires a conscious effort.
|comments section below, as I learn just as much
from you as you do from me.