Become an Active Listener

Do you know you hear as many as 20,000 to 30,000 words a day? But how much is retained? Research shows that the average person remembers only 50% of what is said immediately after a conversation and within 48 hours, that drops to only 25%. Good listening skills avoid misunderstandings, lost opportunities, errors, stalled projects and damaged relationships. Listening carefully, in other words, active listening, enhances your personal and professional relationships while gaining you the respect of others.

  • The workplace is demanding and can be stressful with plenty of distractions. Telephones ringing, background conversations, personal issues on your mind and a desk loaded with work all contribute to multi-tasking. There is enormous competition for your attention. Effective listening isn’t easy. But here’s how…
  • Clear your mind of distractions. Put aside any worries. Put down your phone and turn away from the computer. Make a conscious effort to focus only on the person speaking to you.
  • Be aware of your body language. Are you showing impatience by tapping your foot or pencil or crossing your arms tightly to your chest? Make sure your posture is open and receptive.
  • Smile and use other facial expressions.
    Stay focused on listening rather than thinking ahead to how you will respond. Face the speaker and avoid interrupting.
  • Encourage the speaker with nods and affirmations. An occasion, “uh-huh,” and “yes, I understand,” will alert the speaker that you are truly hearing what’s being said.
  • Try repeating the speaker’s words mentally as he/she says them. This will help reinforce the message and go a long way to remember it.
  • An occasional question or recap indicates you are listening. Using phrases such as “Am I understanding this correctly?” and paraphrasing what the speaker said can go a long way in helping you gain important information and makes the speaker feel validated.
  • Take notes as needed.

How well you’re listening has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others. Let’s remember, “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”-Dr. Ralph Nichols