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July 2001 - Ten Tips for Listening Effectively

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July 2001

Ten Tips for Listening Effectively

I am often asked to speak on listening. Little wonder! CEO's rate listening as one of the most important ingredients for those who wish to rise in an organization. A recent study of Air Force leaders rated communication as the most important skill, and listening as the number one communication skill they wanted to see in their people.

Here are ten valuable tips to follow if you want to be a better listener:

  1. Want to listen. And use nonverbal behavior to show the speaker that you are interested.
  2. Be ready to listen. When the speaker's mouth opens, open your ears. This is not the time to be hunting for a pen, reading a letter, or thinking about some unrelated subject.
  3. Establish eye contact with the speaker. Resist the temptation to look away. In groups, try to place yourself where you can see the speaker and the speaker can see you.
  4. Be physically involved. Use good posture both to keep alert and to communicate to the speaker that you are listening. Participate when audience involvement is encouraged.
  5. Avoid negative mannerisms. Fidgeting, tapping a pencil, playing with an object, or attempting to do another task while listening is a hindrance both to you and to the speaker.
  6. Exercise your listening muscles. Challenge yourself by listening to difficult material and by learning the meaning to new words. A steady diet of easy listening will not prepare you for difficult listening situations.
  7. Delay judgment. Don't decide beforehand that you don't like the speaker or the subject. Give the speaker a fair hearing.
  8. Focus on main points and key ideas. The best listeners focus on ideas rather than just the facts and details.
  9. Capitalize on the "speed differential." Listeners can listen "faster" than speakers can talk. Rather than letting your mind wander, use the speed differential to focus on the key points and ideas.
  10. Follow the "Golden Rule." Treat others the way you want to be treated. Ask, "How would I want others to listen to me?" That's the way to be an effective listener.

John Kline
Troy, Alabama

July 2001 - Ten Tips for Listening Effectively
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