Listening Skills

by Steve Roche

Common questions

  1. Why should I care about good listening?
  2. What is the essence of effective listening?
  3. How do I know whether or not I’m a good listener?
  4. How can I improve my listening skills?

 

1. Why should I care about good listening?

Listening skills are essential to many business roles and activities, such as:

  • making decisions
  • reaching agreements
  • selling and influencing
  • dealing with customer complaints
  • giving and receiving information.

Good listening gives a powerful message to those with whom you interact. Together with skilful questioning, it hugely increases your capacity to effectively influence, motivate, serve or develop people.

It is the key to maintaining productive relationships.

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2. What is the essence of effective listening?

It is attending carefully to all information given by the speaker, including non-verbal signals, such as intonation, gestures and body language.

It is an active process that includes the listener speaking, primarily by reflecting back. Reflecting back demonstrates ‘I heard what you said, and am checking to see if I got it right.’

Reflective skills include:

  • restating single words or short phrases the speaker has used, so that they hear them
  • paraphrasing the speaker’s core message, using their frame of reference and their language
  • summarising to bring together key aspects of the content in an overview of themes or clusters of concerns.

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3. How do I know whether or not I’m a good listener?

You can ask for feedback with a question such as:

‘Did you feel listened to and if not, why not?’

The speaker may mention some habit that you are unaware of. If it distracts them, they may get the perception you are not listening. The speaker has to see, hear and feel that the listener is getting the message.

We often repeat ourselves because we sense that a listener is not ‘getting it’. By doing the repeating, the listener can help move a conversation on.

Common reasons for people not listening include:

  • rehearsing your reply while the other person is still talking
  • worrying in case the other person won’t accept your response
  • getting impatient for them to finish so you can start talking.

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4. How can I improve my listening skills?

Review your performance against points such as:

  • I paraphrase what the speaker has said, to check understanding
  • I let the speaker finish what they are saying before replying.

Complete sentences such as:

  • If I can’t understand what someone is saying then I...
  • Habits I find irritating in a speaker include...
  • When someone is speaking I spend most of my time...

With the information from your personal responses, you can begin to understand:

  1. What you need to start doing
  2. What you need to continue
  3. What you need to stop doing
in order to become a more effective listener.

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