The Art of Listening … ACTIVELY!

Communication Skills CourseMargaret Heffernan contributed an article to CBSnews.com entitled, Have you mastered the art of listening?

She asserts that, many people in the business world take training classes in the art public speaking presentation skills and how to chair a meeting. That is only half of the equation.

The other half is listening, but I would amend this to say “Active Listening.” Heffermann’s research offers some suggestions. If you would like to read the original article, you can find it here.

Here is my take.

1. Focus closely on the person speaking. Try not to check your smart phone or complete other tasks during the conversation. In other words, don’t multitask because this increases your chances of missing cues delivered by body language or inflection
2. Listen carefully for things you don’t know. It requires less effort for our brains to focus or process information with which we are familiar and gives us confidence in our ability to comprehend information. The risk is that we may miss new and nuanced information that will lead to incorrect conclusions.
3. Challenge yourself and what you hear. Check your understanding of the speakers point during the conversation by asking questions or making notes to be followed up later in the process. Mentally, you should try to determine ways to confirm or verify your understanding of the issues and resolve contradictions.
4. Keep an open mind. If we try to listen with an open mind, we may will become aware of feelings and attitudes that we may have been unaware. Of course it may take some time for you to perfect your questioning technique, but that is a natural process.
5. Maintain your focus. I may be helpful to establish some ground rules before you begin the conversation. For example, one rule could be that both of you have permission to ask questions at various points during the interaction to ensure clarity.

Active listening, in my opinion, is beneficial in all phases of human interaction.

Related Articles:   WRITE … but not “wrongly”!   and   Four Steps to a Better Presentation

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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