Thursday, October 6, 2011

Listening Skills

How are your listening skills?  Are you a good listener?

I can remember being in elementary school and the teacher reminding everyone in a sing-songy style voice to “practice your listening skills”.   Are you still practicing them?

Loading Your Guns:  Are you really listening to what the other person is saying or are you simply, “loading your guns” behind your back?  Like the old cowboy pictures, as soon as the other person stops talking you’re ready to whip out your pistols and start firing away.  You only catch half of what they said, because after a certain point, you started forming your counter point or next statement in your mind…ie loading your guns.  This would be bad listening. 

Let a Point Marinate:  So instead of loading and getting ready to blast away, you let what the other person just said sink in a bit.  Sometimes, silence in a conversation is gold.  It shows the other person you’re pondering and thinking on what they just said.  Be sure to use this time to not only show the person you’re considering their words, but ACTUALLY consider their words.  The art of conversation doesn’t mean you have to be so quick to spout off.

Continue The Open Subject:  To take it a step farther, you can actually repeat back a bit of what they just said and continue on their thought.  Part of being a good listener is letting your agenda take a back seat and continuing with the other person’s topic.  Don’t be so quick to reach for the microphone, give the other person their moment.  There is a humility aspect to being a good listener.  A good listener doesn’t try to top what was just said.  If someone tells you good news or bad news, don’t try to top it with a piece of even better or even worse news.   

Remembering What Was Said:  Sharpen your memory.  Doing the above; not being quick to speak, allowing the topic to simmer and continuing the topic will help you retain what was said.  Have you ever heard people that say “I’m horrible at remembering names”?.  No, the truth is, they are not a great listener.  People will remember what they care about.  Start injecting a dose of TLC in your listening and conversation and you’ll see the memory meter jump up.

Being Teachable:  A good listener, even if he or she knows what you’re talking about and is somewhat an expert on the subject, will still take a moment to hear your thoughts.  Don’t be impatient if you’re hearing something you think you already know.  Perhaps you may learn something new, refresh your own knowledge or learn what others think of the situation.  Remember the goal is to listen, not to show the other person what you already know.  Nothing worse then talking to a person who interrupts and starts going, "I know, I know, I know", as they are missing the rest of your comment, that they probably didn't know.

(Having said that, everyone should avoid being Mr. or Mrs. Obvious.  If you are speaking to someone, have some insight in to what the person you’re speaking to may or may not know.  If you’re going to say something that is obvious or basic, you can add on a sentence that show’s you realize this:

“You probably already know this, but…”

“I’m sure this is obvious, but it bears repeating…”

“Not to be obvious but….”

“What I’m about to say we both know, but just to reassure we’re on the same page…”

..and many others)

Probably a basic blog and something you probably already knew….but it bears repeating.  I’ve noticed listening skills, in 2011, mixed with the iPhone, twitter and fast-paced societies seem to have taken a dive…we can all sharpen up.  Anyone have other listening points to add? 

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