Listen Up

20072t702hubx9aOne skill that I think I have improved most significantly over my career is listening. To me, listening is THE skill that helps you to be a great employee, manager, coworker, and service provider. (It’s a key for great personal relationships, too.)

So, I wanted to share my tips for being a good listener.

  • Open up your body language. Don’t cross your arms, put your hands in your pockets, or avert your eyes. Lean slightly forward and make eye contact. A simple smile and the occasional nod will show that you’re interested and engaged.
  • Stay engaged. Give the person you’re talking to your full attention. When you’re distracted by what’s going on around you, your computer, or your phone, you are not listening. Never attempt to multitask while listening.
  • Focus on now, not what’s next. Don’t focus on what you’re going to say next. Focus on the speaker. Once you’ve absorbed what the person has said, respond thoughtfully.
  • Don’t talk, listen. It can be tempting to finish someone’s sentence to show you understand, but when you are talking you are not listening. If you interrupt someone–even with good intentions–it denies the speaker the opportunity to fully express feelings and opinions and may even discourage them from saying what they want in deference to your thoughts. Before responding, pause for a few seconds to make sure the speaker is done.
  • Ask questions. There is no better way to get information than to ask questions and listen to the answers. If you are afraid of how someone will respond, then you are not really listening anyway. Open-ended questions are best.

Do you have tips to add to this list? Share them here.


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