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Career tip: Better listening skills June 27, 2009

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.
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Slow down! The first and foremost stumbling block for most people trying to listen is going too fast. Their minds race along, only partially paying attention. Often this is a chain of other thoughts triggered by the speaker or if in a conversation a response even as the topic is being framed. Solution?

Focus on the other person. Slow down and that allows you to pay full attention to the other person’s message. Often the message is led up to and not given in the first few sentences. This is especially true if the topic is a difficult one.

Save your responses, except for clarifying. This allows the other person an uninterrupted time to say what they want to. If you do not understand or something might be misunderstood, ask questions to get a clearer picture. Do not use this to divert the discussion to your own purposes.

Take notes unobtrusively. If you get a good idea, jot it down for your response or as a question. Lot the note enough to remind you, but do not take so much effort that it appears to be a lack of attention to the speaker.

Remember it’s a dialogue, not two alternating monologues. Too often, one person overrides and no exchange of ideas occurs. If two people get in this mode, then each says a lot, listens little, and ends up feeling something was missing. Sometimes this even translates into finding fault with each other, when both were doing the same poor listening.

What does increasing these skills gain you? If you listen better, your communications will be more efficient. This saves overall time and efforts. Rework, misunderstandings, missed deadlines, and poor coordination of efforts are some things you’ll avoid. Being a good listener can give you that edge to do better than others.

If you are a supervisor, you can learn to deal with problems sooner and better. Your team will soon recognize that you are paying attention to their needs and concerns. They will open up more and bring potential problems to you sooner, before they become crises. If you listen, a subordinate might be mollified just knowing you want to help. The advantages in a smoother operation are numerous – including a better performance review process. When was the last time an employee and you both looked forward to a performance review as an opportunity and as something worthwhile?

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