Listen and Learn

We have all heard how important listening is in order to communicate effectively. Studies show that the average listener retains less than 50% of what he or she hears. If you are a poor listener, you are missing out on a large amount of information!

Most people think of themselves as good listeners. Interestingly enough, they also think most other people are poor listeners. Did you know that the number one customer service complaint is that the customer did not feel listened to? Most conflicts in the workplace are attributed to poor listening.

In today’s work environment, listening is often mistaken as something passive. Listening might be seen as something one does if they are unable to provide valuable input. I have never heard of an employee that was recognized because of their listening abilities. Yet listening is the key to customer service, sales, and teamwork.

Effective listening is an important aspect of communication and it takes practice. Most of us practice improving our presentation skills but very few of us, if any, practice becoming a better listener. Here’s how you can become a better listener:

  • When listening to others make eye contact and try not to wander. If you are listening over the phone, eliminate distractions and stay focused. (I jot down the speaker’s name on a piece of paper and stare at the paper as if I was looking at the speaker in person.)
  •  Do not assume you already know what the speaker is going to say.
  •  Encourage the speaker to expand on their thoughts by nodding and interjecting phrases such as: Tell me more or please go on.
  •  When the speaker pauses, don’t jump in. Give them plenty of time to finish their thoughts.
  •  Do not interrupt unless you need clarification.
  •  Listen to the body language as well. We communicate over 55% of our message through our body language, so you must stay alert as to what the gestures and facial expressions are telling you.
  •  If possible take notes to assure you will remember what is being said by the speaker.
  •  Repeat back what was said in your own words and be sure to get agreement.

A primary listening mistake is the listener’s tendency to feel the need to begin creating a response before the speaker is finished. As you evaluate your own listening skills become aware of how often you begin planning your next response instead of focusing on everything that is being said by the speaker. The best way to control this habit is by jotting down brief notes. As possible responses pop into your mind, write down one-word triggers to help you remember your thoughts later.

To understand the power of listening is to take a lesson from nature. You have two ears and only one mouth. Listen twice as much as you speak. Even Mother Nature knows that when you listen you learn!