We’ve all done it, we’ve all had it happen to us: we think we are listening to someone but five minutes later we have no clue what they said. How does that happen? Why do we LET it happen?

I want to challenge you today to become a skilled listener by:

  • Becoming aware of the benefits
  • Practicing the active listening skills listed
  • Practicing listening in the workplace
  • Giving “proof” you listened
  • Honestly rating your listening skills

Listening well is a skill worth taking time to develop. It is not as easy as it may sound, however it will result in deeper relationships and better job performance, just to name a few benefits.

How can you improve your listening skills?

  • Lean in slightly toward the speaker with hands folded.
  • Eye contact shows the speaker they have your full attention. This is not a time for multi-tasking.
  •  A nod of the head lets the speaker know you are “getting it”.
  • Focus, focus, focus. Shut down invading thoughts quickly.
  • Note anything you have a question about but save it until the speaker has finished, or at least come to a pause. This shows respect and patience, and they may just answer your question further along in their message!
  • Do not interrupt, under any circumstances! Save your comments.
  • If you find yourself disagreeing with the speaker, do not let on until they are finished. Hear them out! There will be time later to politely discuss your differences.
  • Avoid giving unsolicited advice. This can be very difficult however the speaker will let you know if they are needing a solution. Sometimes a speaker is just needing to “think aloud” about a problem and just needs time to process.

In the workplace, if the speaker is giving detailed instructions, it would be wise to take notes in a small notebook for future reference. If there is a demonstration, using your phone to video the demonstration could be very helpful to add another layer of listening.

The proof in listening well is that the speaker gets feedback that their message was received. This proof can be a verbal summary repeated back to them, and they can clarify any “holes” in the message.  Instructions being well followed is also proof, by the way!

So how would you rate your listening skills? Take a moment to answer these questions!

  • Do you often find your mind wandering when others talk?
  • Do you look at the speaker and stop what you are doing?
  • Do you find yourself interrupting people often?
  • Do you tend to give nonverbal feedback when you hear something you disagree with?
  • Do you find yourself searching for a solution while the other person is explaining a problem they have instead of just hearing them out?
  • Do you care enough to ask clarifying questions when they finish?
  • Do you repeat back to the speaker what you think you heard?

Start noticing your listening behaviors and practice the skills mentioned. You will be greatly rewarded in both your personal and professional life!

-Jan Jones

For more on Listening Skills: