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How to listen actively

Listening accounts for well over half of a manager's communication time, and it is unquestionably the weakest link in the communication chain. We simply don't listen well enough. The failure is not in the hearing, but in our ability to attend to what we hear. Listening is hard work. It's so easy to 'switch off'. If only we listened attentively and with empathy, we would eliminate so many misunderstandings, arguments, delays, and mistakes. Become a better listener by adhering to the following advice...

1. Commit yourself to each individual act of listening.

Whenever you need to hear everything someone is saying, commit yourself - really commit yourself - to do so. Say to yourself, 'The most important thing in my life at this moment is to understand this person's feelings and views.' Accordingly, focus all of your listening capacity on the speaker for the next five, fifteen, or fifty minutes. Actually want to listen better. It's a small investment of your time that can pay enormous dividends.

2. Really concentrate on what is being said.

When listening, listen. Listening is not a passive activity. Unless you're concentrating solely on what is being said, you're not listening. If you've heard it all before, hear it again. Fight the 'switch-off' syndrome. The more you work at concentrating while listening, the more your powers of concentration will develop and the easier listening will become.

3. Neutralise your biases.

Don't let your personal biases turn you off, despite what you may feel about the speaker's voice, character, appearance, or reputation, or the subject being discussed. Don't let your feelings distort the real message. Stay calm; don't get upset; and keep an open mind.


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