Interpersonal Skills Feed

Keys to Listening Well

How good of a listener are you?  How pure is the attention you give to another? We've all been doing some form of listening since we were kids. But have we just been honing bad habits all of these years?

As adults we've probably learned some outward skills of listening, also known as "active listening". These are the techniques of paraphrasing, posture and nodding the head, etc. In other words we've all been trained in our leadership development classes how to better PRETEND that we are listening. In reality, we may not be very good listeners at all. We pretend to listen, giving all of the right outward cues, but inside our heads we are having another conversation.

The key to listening well is to focus on what we do on the inside, rather than the outside, and eliminate those side conversations in our heads. It is easy to get distracted, but we can do something about it by being aware of what triggers our distraction.

Here are some quick tips to sharpen your listening skills that you can use right away:

  • Listen for curiosity rather than diagnosis. When you find yourself starting to diagnose someone's problem, think about what made you start to do that and ask a question about that.
  • Eliminate environmental distractions. Silence the phone.  Mute the email alarm. Clear away the clutter that makes your mind wander.

Remember, listening starts and ends in our heads. With a little discipline and practice, we can all really listen and listen well.

Share your thoughts: What are some techniques you find helpful for listening?