What is “Active Listening” and How Can I Get Better At It?

Weak listening skills cause more workplace errors, confusion, and unnecessary conflicts than any other skill gap! Listening is the most-used communication skill you have. Isn’t it time you gave it a little attention?

ThinkstockPhotos-78228571You know how to listen. But are you doing it? The average person hears and understands 400 words per minute. Average talking speed, however, is only 125 words per minute. This differential allows our brains to wander … and make grocery lists and think about other tasks … and keeps us from being fully engaged listeners.

Listening to and understanding your customer’s goals — both ideal and realistic— will allow you to come up with solutions to meet his or her needs.

The Three Components of Active Listening
1. Understand.
2. Remember.
3. Respond.

Seven Steps of Effective Active Listening
1. Ensure an environment free from distractions, when possible.
2. Use appropriate nonverbal communication to demonstrate listening.
3. Focus complete attention on the words and message the speaker is delivering.
4. Listen.
5. Respond.
6. Use transition phrases, such as, “I want to be sure I’m understanding you correctly. You said …” or “What I hear you saying is …”
7. Add interpretive responses such as, “It seems like this situation is frustrating you.” or “This is something you wanted to go differently.”

GOOD LISTENERS
1. Find areas of interest and identify the opportunity.
2. Separate intent from content.
3. Withhold judgment and hold fire.
4. Identify central ideas and themes.
5. Tend to the speaker to fight interruptions and mental distractions.
6. Maintain an open position.
7. Use speaker content to expand the base of information.

ThinkstockPhotos-490133468BAD LISTENERS
1. Tune out dry subjects.
2. Tune out if the delivery is poor.
3. Enter into an argument — will jump into the fire.
4. Listen only for facts.
5. Can be easily distracted and have a short attention span.
6. Keep a closed position; often shut off listening when emotional words are expressed.
7. Use the speaker to support what is known.

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