Mastering the Art of Listening: Strategies for Success - American Society of Employers - Dana Weidinger

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Mastering the Art of Listening: Strategies for Success

Listening, much like intelligence, is a skill where most people consider themselves above average, though logically, this can't be true for everyone. Nonetheless, effective listening is a vital skill to master. A study from George Washington University found that listening can influence up to 40% of a leader’s job performance.

Alfred Brendel once said, “The word listen contains the same letters as the word silent.” In a work environment filled with constant communication—feedback, instructions, deadlines—opportunities to practice good listening are plentiful. Beyond spoken words, valuable information can be discerned from tone of voice, body language, and what remains unspoken.

Believing one is a good listener is common. A study from Wright State University, surveying over 8,000 people across various industries, found nearly all participants rated themselves as good or better listeners than their peers. Intuitively, we know many are mistaken.

Effective listening can be learned and mastered. Even if attentive listening feels challenging or tedious, improvement is possible with the right focus. Here are some straightforward strategies to enhance your listening skills that Dr. Travis Bradberry shares in his book Emotional Intelligence Habits:

1. Focus

The most common listening mistake is focusing more on what to say next or how the conversation affects you, rather than truly hearing the speaker. The words are heard, but their meaning is missed. While focusing sounds simple, distractions from your own thoughts can make it difficult.

2. Put Away Your Phone

Multitasking with your phone during a conversation undermines your ability to listen. A mid-conversation text or glance at your phone can be off-putting. Commit fully to the conversation, and you’ll find it more enjoyable and effective.

3. Ask Good Questions

Asking questions demonstrates you’re engaged and care about the speaker’s message. Simple clarification questions can earn respect and appreciation. Additionally, ask probing questions like “What happened next?” or “Why did that occur?” to deepen your understanding, rather than shifting the topic.

4. Practice Reflective Listening

Reflective listening, a concept by psychologist Carl Rogers, involves paraphrasing the speaker’s message to ensure accurate interpretation. This gives the speaker a chance to clarify their meaning. Use your own words to reflect the message, showing that you’ve truly absorbed the information.

5. Use Positive Body Language

Positive body language—such as an enthusiastic tone, uncrossed arms, eye contact, and leaning towards the speaker—can significantly enhance a conversation. These gestures show engagement and draw people in.

6. Don’t Pass Judgment

To be a good listener, maintain an open mind. Approachability and willingness to consider new ideas are crucial, especially in the workplace. Seeing the world through others’ perspectives, even if you don’t agree, fosters understanding and openness.

7. Stay Silent

If you’re not seeking understanding or asking a question, stay silent. Thinking about your response distracts from listening, and hijacking the conversation implies your words are more important. Avoid jumping in with solutions, as it can shut down the speaker and end the conversation prematurely.

Moving Forward

In our fast-paced lives, we juggle many tasks simultaneously. However, active and effective listening requires deliberate effort. Reflect on how you know when someone is truly listening to you and evaluate your own listening skills.

 

Sources:

McLean & Company training deck “Lead with Emotional Intelligence”

Dr. Travis Bradberry, Book: Emotional Intelligence Habits

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