Being a good listener is vital in business. Listening is an important skill in business because it is an essential communication tool. People are so busy thinking about what they will say next, that they fail to listen effectively. Those who can listen well can develop better relationships and eliminate misunderstandings and miscommunication,” explains Frederick J. Goodall, publisher of Mocha Dad and Mocha Man Style.
But for some being a good listener doesn´t come naturally. It is a skill that has to be learned and practiced.
First, determine if you are a poor listener. “Do people tell you you don’t listen? Even if the feedback is from your significant other, and you are prone to dismiss it, at least consider the possibility that this quality may manifest itself at work as well,” says Patricia Thompson, author of “The Consummate Leader: a Holistic Guide to Inspiring Growth in Others…and in Yourself” and president of Silver Lining Psychology.
Another sign of poor listening skills is if you are constantly interrupting people. “Often, people do this unconsciously, so monitor yourself in your interactions with others. If you notice that you tend to jump in before they finish their sentences, you can be sure your listening skills could use improvement,” says Thompson.
Do you misunderstand information someone has said to you? If so, you are not retaining what is being spoken. “This is another indication that you may be listening more for what you want to hear than what is actually being communicated,” offers Thompson.
Also, figure out what kind of listener you are. “There are two extremes: the withholder and the gusher,” explains Richard Butterfield of Butterfield Speaks, a communication and presentation consultancy. “The withholder gives nothing when you talk to them. They sit with arms crossed and a blank expression, making the speaker feel uncomfortable. Withholders tend to be poor communicators because they get much less information – and much less help – from others, and therefore end up delivering the wrong message.”
Gushers are different. They continuously nod, issue “ums” and “ahs” and frequently interrupts. “Though the intention may be to show the speaker they are paying close attention, what often happens is the speakers ends up distracted and the conversation gets thrown off course,” adds Butterfield.
Listen Up: Tips On Improving Your Listening Skills:
–Cut out the distractions. Make sure there is nothing impeding your listening, such as too much background noise. “Give others your full attention by turning away from your computer screen, resisting the urge to read ahead if they provide you with some sort of document, and making sure that you ignore the lure of any notifications from your smartphone,” advises Thompson.
–Wait for the other person to stop talking. “Do not interrupt; let others complete their sentences,” says Thompson. “Communication is not a competitive sport! Even if you have a sense of where the other person is going with their conversation, let him or her finish. Listening is not just for picking up information that the other person is saying; it also serves the purpose of maintaining rapport by allowing the other person to feel heard.”
–Don´t let your body language show disinterest. You body talks even when you don´t. “Watch out for your nonverbal communication – if you are an impatient person, there is a good possibility that you might be making the other person feel rushed by nodding quickly or engaging in some other behavior intended to encourage him or her to get to the point more quickly. Strive to be aware of this, and work against these tendencies,” says Thompson.
–Use your eyes and body positively. “Engage your body: lean slightly toward the speaker. It makes you more present. Keep an open posture. Affirm by nodding your head occasionally,” says Butterfield. “Make eye contact. People’s eyes often tell us how they feel about what they are saying; you get the benefit of the emotion and commitment behind their words.”
–Speak back. Repeat what the person has said to you. “Paraphrase what the other person is saying. While this shouldn’t be overused, it can be helpful to paraphrase what the person communicated to you,” advises Thompson. “Saying something like ´So if I understand correctly, you are saying..´ can help to validate to the other person that you were listening, while at the same time, help you to clarify any misunderstandings.”
–Keep it civil. No matter how much you disagree with what is being said, it is not a call to argue. “Try to resist the urge to develop an argument while the other person is talking,” says Thompson. “Sometimes people listen just to hear the points with which they disagree, as opposed to really trying to determine what the other person is saying that is of value. Listening with an open mind will allow you to better comprehend the other person’s point of view, which may result in a better overall solution.”