Imagine being 25% – 40% effective at something. This sounds pretty dismal! Research suggests that we remember between 25% – 40% of what we hear. How can this be true considering that listening is one of the most important skills you can have?

When you become a better listener, you improve your productivity and your ability to influence, persuade, and negotiate. This will enable you to manage conflict better and avoid misunderstandings. All of these are necessary for workplace success!

Real listening is an active process that has three basic steps:

•Hearing—just listening enough to catch what the speaker is saying. If you can repeat what has been said, you have heard the message.

•Understanding—taking what you heard and understanding it in your own way. This is when you ask questions of yourself and others.

•Judging—thinking about whether the message makes sense. This is where you ask yourself if you believe what you heard.

Notice that real listening is an “active” process–the way to become a better listener is to practice “active listening”. This is when you make a conscious effort to not only hear the words that someone is saying but to also understand and judge the complete message being sent.

So what should you do to become an active listener?

Attend closely to what’s being said and to the speaker’s non-verbals
Look at the speaker directly and give him your undivided attention. Make a conscious effort to not only “listen” to the speaker’s body language, but to also “focus” your mind and put aside your distracting thoughts.

Watch your non-verbals
Non-verbals can encompass everything from facial expressions, to posture, and to where you sit at a table. Leaning forward, maintaining eye contact, and nodding are ways to show that you’re interested in the conversation. Your non-verbals are usually more telling than your verbals.

Allow others to finish speaking before taking a turn
Interrupting frustrates a speaker and limits your full understanding of the message. Speakers appreciate having the chance to say everything they would like to say without being interrupted. When you interrupt, it looks like you aren’t listening, even if you are.

Listen for main ideas
These are the most important points that the speaker want to get across. They may being with “My point is…” or “Here’s the most important part…’.

Repeat back what you’ve heard to give the speaker the opportunity to clarify the message.
Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing: “What I’m hearing is,” and “Sounds like you are saying…” Also, makes sure you ask questions of the speaker to clarify what he means.

In order to be successful in the workplace, you must be able to write, speak, and listen effectively. Listening is the most important of these and also the most difficult skill to do well. Practicing active listening enables you to become more productive and better able to handle the conflicts that arise.

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