Improve Your Listening Immediately
Improve Your Listening Immediately!
by Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP
We are good at talking, but we have trouble listening. One sage said, “The
only reason we listen is because we know we get to talk next.” Here are some
tips that can change your listening behavior now.
Names! First, repeat a person’s name when you first meet him or her.
This will make you listen first and talk second. You want to have a mental set
to become a better listener, and repeating a person’s name will help you do
that. Don’t hesitate to ask a person to repeat the name the second time,
especially if the name is unusual. You are showing concern for the other person,
which is an important aspect of listening. Use the person’s name in your
response. “Is this your first time here, Suzanne?”
Ask a question! Second, when you are anticipating making a comment on
what a person has said, ask a question instead. This will keep you listening
longer, and often the added information will help you make a higher quality
contribution to the conversation. Get information before you give information.
Pause! Third, don’t rush to answer the phone when it rings. Pause a
moment so that you can be mentally ready to listen to the person calling you
rather than thinking about what you were doing when the phone rang. Taking these
few extra seconds to think will make you a better listener from the beginning of
the phone conversation. In addition, listen as though you are going to report
the message to someone else. This keeps you focused on the main reason or idea
of the call.
Streamline! Fourth, eliminate clutter around the phone and your desk so
you won’t easily be distracted when you are talking by phone or have a person
talking to you in your office. Notes, pens, folders, clocks, and knickknacks can
distract you, and you may not even be aware of the distraction until you realize
you have no idea what the person just said.
Choose your time! Fifth, when possible choose your listening time during
the part of the day when you are mentally alert. If you are a morning person
make your most important appointments, interviews, or phone calls during that
time. If mornings are difficult for you, make afternoon calls. You lose
listening acumen when you are tired physically or mentally.
Admit! Finally, don’t be afraid to admit that you’re having a hard
time listening and make necessary adjustments. You might say, “I’m sorry I
missed that last point. Please repeat that for me.” Or “I’m having a hard
time concentrating; let me move to another chair.” Or “Could we pick up the
conversation at a later time this afternoon? I need a break and some lunch.”
Any of these responses will tell people that you want to listen to their
messages, and that what they have to say is important to you.
Some listening skills, such as suspending judgment, dealing with biases, and
avoiding daydreaming, take time to develop because of the mental self-discipline
they require. Following these tips, however, will improve your listening
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is a professor of speech communication at Northern
Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky. He is also a trainer in
communication who presents more than 60 seminars and workshops a year to
corporations and associations. See additional articles and resources at http://www.sboyd.com.
He can be reached at 800-727-6520 or at email@example.com.