Developing and refining good listening habits can help you in all aspects of your current job as well as future employment. The first rule of thumb is to acknowledge the difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the process, function, or power of perceiving sound…the special sense by which noises and tones are received as stimuli. Therefore, hearing is recognized as one of our five physical senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch). Listening, on the other hand, is defined as “hearing something with thoughtful attention…to give consideration to what has been heard.”
How many times in the past have you thought you “heard” what your boss or a fellow coworker was saying only to find out later you missed a key point, or that you got the opposite impression of an idea or result? Poor listening results in costly mistakes that require refunds, lost customers/clients, accidents, etc. Undoubtedly, poor listening is also a factor in lower productivity and higher expenses.
The good news is that good listening skills can be developed with practice. Successful listeners are aware of and understand the importance of good listening. They make a commitment to practicing good listening habits, and they understand the fact that maintaining good listening habits is an ongoing process. The rewards, however, are unlimited; so keep these ten points in mind as you refine your listening:
- Control external and internal distractions.
- Become an “active” listener—lean forward and maintain eye contact with the speaker.
- Separate facts from opinions.
- Identify important facts.
- Avoid interrupting.
- Ask questions that clarify your interpretations.
- Paraphrase to increase your understanding.
- Capitalize on lag time—as you wait for the speaker’s next idea, use that time to review what the person is saying.
- Take notes to help with comprehension and retention.
10. Be aware of gender differences. According to authors Mary Ellen Guffey and Dana Loewy, there are distinct differences between the communication styles for men and women. By being aware of these differences, you can bridge these communication gaps more successfully.
Source: Mary Ellen Guffey and Dana Loewy, Business Communication: Process & Product 7th edition, Mason, OH: South-Western, Cengage Learning, 2011.
For more information, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, firstname.lastname@example.org 972-238-6215.