How to Become a Better Listener


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This document summarizes the tips to help you become a better listener from the book "Listen Up" by Baker and Watson. I hope you will find this summary helpful. And always remember: when everything else fails, listen!

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How to Become a Better Listener

  1. 1. Ekaterina’s Book Buzz “Listen Up: How to Improve Relationships, Reduce Stress, and be More Productive by Using the Power of Listening” by Larry Barker and Kittie Watson "The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer" Henry David Thoreau QUICK OVERVIEW: Unlike other communication skills such as reading and writing, listening is usually viewed as an innate process that requires only the ability to hear. Unfortunately, the ability to hear does not guarantee the ability to listen. Listening impacts the quality of relationships, job success, and personal growth. Research has consistently demonstrated that ineffective listening habits present the most common barriers to success in relationships and careers. People with listening skills not only advance faster, they create a ‘feel-good’ atmosphere around them - when we feel listened to and understood, our stress levels fall. Fortunately, listening skills can be developed and learned. This document summarized the tips sprinkled throughout the book to help you become a better listener. And always remember: when everything else fails, listen! CONTENT: Three Common Dangerous Assumptions about Listening 1. Speakers control communication more than listeners. In reality, listeners control the dialogue. Speakers cannot force others to listen. 2. We can listen well when we really have to. In reality, listening harder doesn’t necessarily mean listening better; and listeners overestimate how much information they remember. Research on retention has found that most people remember less than 50% of what was said immediately after a 10-min talk. 3. When we start talking, others start listening. In reality, when we begin to talk, we often forget that others may not be prepared to listen. Most of us need at least a few seconds to get on track when someone else begins to speak. How We Give Up Listening Power  Tuning out.  Becoming self-involved. Example: forgetting someone’s name during an introduction.  Jumping to conclusions. Often we automatically stop listening when someone expresses an opinion different from our own.
  2. 2. “There is an art in listening. To be able to listen one must abandon or put aside all prejudices, pre-formulations, and daily activities. When you are in receptive state of mind, things can be easily understood; you are listening when your real attention is given to something. But unfortunately we listen through a screen of resistance.” Jiddu Krishnamurti, The First and Last Freedom The Benefits of Listening Power  Effective listeners are in demand  Effective listening uncovers other’s needs and desires  Effective listening reduces stress - when we feel listened to and understood, our stress levels fall.  Effective listeners reduce meeting time and the number of follow-up meetings  Effective listening increases sales Top 10 Irritating Listening Habits  Interrupting the speaker  Not looking at the speaker  Rushing the speaker and making him feel that he’s wasting listener’s time  Showing interest in something other than the conversation  Getting ahead of the speaker and fisnighing her thoughts  Not responding to the speaker’s requests  Saying “yes, but…” as if the listener has made up his mind  Topping the speaker’s story with “that reminds me…” or “that’s nothing, let me tell you about…”  Forgetting what was talked about previously  Asking too many questions about details The Portrait of the Person with Excellent Listening Skills In Harvard Management Update, the authors presented the following portrait of an effective listener. You are sitting there looking at the customer, asking probing questions and giving him or her more than enough time to answer. You are clearly communicating the importance of every word you hear by taking notes, leaning toward the speaker, and nodding to show you understand or agree. In other words, you are absorbing information like a sponge and doing everything but talk – to let the person know that’s what you are doing. Tips for Effective Listening  Quiet your inner voice. Throughout the day, our inner voice never stops talking. Your inner voice is the loudest sound in your world, and it often gets in the way of your relationships with others. Quieting the inner voice long enough to really listen
  3. 3. to others is a challenge. The key to regulating our inner voice is to work from an “other-centered” rather than “self-centered” listening perspective.  Don’t yield to distractions. To control internal and external distractions: o Remove or reduce distractions (turn off TV or machines making noise, etc) o Sit or move closer to the speaker o Minimize interruptions by finding the private environment o Take notes o Look at the speaker frequently o Be rested before beginning to listen – your energy level is important  Stop daydreaming. If the speed of the speaker is too slow, use extra thought-speed time to summarize what you have just heard or evaluate information.  Don’t get emotional. When emotions take over, they tend to override logic and shut down our listening process. If it is another person who is in an emotional state of mind, it is best to avoid talking until after the person has calmed down. To stop emotions from taking over: o Be aware in advance of people and topics that trigger emotions o Analyze why you react to some words and ideas emotionally o Resist the temptation to get defensive o Empathize and remember that the speaker may have different meanings for words than you do o Withhold judgment until the speaker is finished  You don’t always have to have the last word.  Talk less. Talking too much often turns others off. When you want to impress others and appear more powerful, learn to say less.  Know when to be silent and when to speak. To use the principle of silence effectively: o Pause a few seconds before responding o Accept silence as a normal part of conversations o Works to balance speaking and listening time during conversations o Break eye contact momentarily to allow others to feel comfortable with silence  Listen across time. When we use what we have heard in subsequent conversations, we demonstrate we value people enough to remember what they said.  Remember people’s names. Here are a few tips: o Repeat the name immediately after you hear it o Use the name within 30 seconds after you hear it o Associate the name with something or someone familiar o Write the names down as soon as possible after hearing them  Use eye contact effectively. Through eye contact we observe and analyze feedback, look for “turn-taking” cues that let us know when to enter conversations, show empathy and interest, and reveal emotions. Beware though, eye contact needs to be consistent, but not constant.  Make it easy for others to talk. Show encouragement through head nods, keeping good eye contact, using silence constructively, and being sure not to interrupt. Keep in mind that when you need to listen to someone with a halting communication style, you may be tempted to jump in too soon. Remember these suggestions: o Avoid interrupting o Demonstrate patience
  4. 4. o Remain objective o Show nonverbal encouragement through head nods and eye contact o Use prompting phrases (“go ahead” and “and then?”)  Use paraphrasing and reflecting skills. There is a value in “empathic listening” – paraphrasing reinforces that we retained the content of what the listener said while demonstrating that we paid attention. By asking questions (or asking for specific examples), restating, summarizing what has been said, testing for understanding using phrases like “If I understand you correctly…”, we can make sure messages have been interpreted accurately.  Learn to empathize and show empathy. Try to put yourself in other’s shoes. Since it’s impossible to know exactly how others are thinking and feeling, we can show empathy without assuming we really know how the speaker feels by using phrases like: o Could it be that… o Correct me if I am wrong, but… o Is it possible that… o It appears that you… o I get the impression that… o It sounds like…  Giving and receiving feedback. Tips: o Take time to prepare, collect necessary materials before meeting o ensure privacy, select an environment that is quiet and comfortable o To increase the odds of having others listen to and apply the feedback, focus on one behavior at a time. o Be specific o Give feedback regularly and consistently o Time feedback appropriately, be sensitive to your own and the other person’s energy level o Deliver feedback as succinctly as possible