Listening Skills

Do you have good listening skills? In school, you learn to read, write and talk. But NO ONE was taught to listen. We were TOLD to listen, but that's not the same thing.

Part of the reason that most of us label ourselves as poor listeners, is that we tend to formulate our replies mentally, while the other person is talking. This creates way too much static in our minds to be able to comprehend what the other person is saying.

The solution? Just listen to what is being said, and trust that you will be able to answer when it is your turn. This can only be realized by DOING it, because we have no evidence this is true (yet). All I can say, is "try it and see for yourself."

Another technique is "active listening." A better term would be "active paraphrasing." This is where you ensure attention is being paid to the speaker through rephrasing, in your own words, what you heard the speaker say. This also provides a focal point for the wayward listener: to paraphrase back what you heard, you must pay attention.

It is not parroting the speaker, nor is it an attempt to match the speaker's volume word for word. It's a short phrase such as, "You had a tough time in your meeting today," and waiting for the speaker to confirm you got the gist of what was said.

Autobiographical Listening

The second biggest reason we may be poor listeners is that we screen out the speaker's words until we hear something we can relate to. Called "Autobiographical Listening" it sounds like this:

Speaker: I was really concerned about my mother's health, and started to investigate facilities for her, but most wouldn't take her Basset Hound, and she really loves that dog, and so I started to ....

Listener: Basset Hound? I LOVE Basset Hounds! I had one as a kid...

Another way we 'autobiographically listen' is that we listen only to advise, argue or assess. We only focus once we have an answer we want to share, or when we want to change someone's mind, or when we judge what the person is saying. It sounds like:

Speaker: I had a really bad commute on Highway 40 today. I really wish the DOT would plan a little better for...

Listener: Highway 40?? What are you doing taking 40 to work? You gotta take back roads. Here. Let me show you what I do....

Listening, like any other habit, takes regular application. It takes 21-28 days to form a new habit. During this time, you will be uncomfortable, irritated, have set-backs...but it is well-worth the effort that this month-long goal requires for a LIFELONG habit that ensures high-trust relationships in the workplace.

Continue on to learn more about the skills you need to deal with difficult co-workers:

Body Language
Tone of Voice

Return from 'Listening Skills' and back to 'Difficult Co-Workers'

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