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Listening Skills: Top 7 Ways to Be a Better Listener

By Jo Condrill

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Because our listening styles reflect our unspoken values and motivations, we often assume that others will have listening styles that are similar to our own. When others do not share our style, the chances of a miscommunication significantly increase. Even more important, we frequently misinterpret the real meaning of this miscommunication. Customers are lost and relationships are strained when we fail to listen to and understand other people. Effective communication skills are the mark of an achiever. Always have been. Always will be.

  1. Understand the motivations behind your listening and the overt behaviors you demonstrate while listening.

  2. Use your body language in a positive way. Make eye contact. Nod appropriately and appreciatively, lean forward to express interest.

  3. Avoid signs of restlessness, such as tapping a pencil or shuffling papers, while listening. Even on the telephone, your inattentiveness will be detected.

  4. Ask questions and paraphrase for fuller understanding. Check out what you think you heard by giving the speaker feedback.

  5. Be attentive to what is NOT said but do not jump to conclusions prematurely. The speaker may be trying not to offend you by side-stepping a question.

  6. Listen for the speaker's intent. Poor communication skills on the part of the speaker frequently lead to misunderstandings and sometimes to hostility. Understanding the speaker's intent can aid effective communications.

  7. Take notes. Few of us can remember everything we hear. Jot down words or phrases that will jog your memory for follow up actions.

About the Author: Jo Condrill is the author of "Take Charge of Your Life: Dare to Pursue Your Dreams" and "101 Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills Instantly." She provides unique learning experiences in leadership, team building, personal development, and success strategies. Jo has worked in the corporate, government, and non-profit sectors. She has held leadership positions at the Pentagon and is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College. She was awarded the Army's highest civilian award, the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service.

Article Submitted On: November 16, 2004