Friday, March 23, 2007

Effective Listening Requires Specific Strategies

Listening does not take place in the ears. Hearing takes place in
the ears. Listening takes place between the ears.


Listening is an intellectual adventure.

We hear words and we can evaluate the meaning, importance, or urgency of what we hear.

We need to evaluate more than just the words. We need to become aware of the communicating styles, learning preferences and personalities of the people speaking. That information guides us in how we receive, accept and react to what we hear.

We need to think through how the messages affect our business and personal lives and we need to create plans for what to do with the information.

If we do not understand the words and their meanings, we need to ask questions, make comments, or seek clarification so we can make correct decisions.


Listening doesn't just involve hearing the words. We need to watch the person's body language and facial expressions to ensure the nonverbal messages match the oral ones. If we become distracted, we can miss an important clue that indicates what we
are hearing does not truly relate to reality. This is not to say the speaker is lying. What the words say and how the person delivers them might indicate uncertainty, confusion or doubt on the speaker’s part.

For example, if you ask an employee, "Do you understand?" the response might be "Yes."

However, the word "yes" might be accompanied by eye movement, a facial gesture or a shrug of the shoulders that might signal you are hearing what you want to

On the other hand, if you do not maintain eye contact while you are listening, you can send many mixed signals to the speaker.

This may indicate you are not interested in what the speaker is saying, you are distracted by your personal agenda, your don't agree with what the other person is saying, or that you flat out don't like the person. It could also signal that you feel intimidated or embarrassed by the person or the message.


listening does not involve total silence on the part of the listener. As listeners, we need to prove to the speaker that we are listening and understanding. We don't have to agree but we do have to understand the other person's position. We cannot understand it if we don't truly listen.

We listen with our voices by giving appropriate responses as the person speaks. This can be as simple as the sincere guttural sound, "Uh huh."

It could be a response like," I see," "I hear you," or I'm with you."

Or, you can display your understanding by repeating or paraphrasing the speaker’s words.


Listening is an attitude. To be a truly effective listener, "Ya gotta wanna."

That's a phrase I heard many years ago when I first started my sales career. To really listen to someone, you must think at least as much about the speaker as you do yourself. You have to adopt a mindset that whatever the speaker says may contain some value for you.

Is this always true?


But you will never be able to know this unless you truly listen carefully to what the person has to say. If you miss something, it's your fault, not the speaker's.

We all like to think we have value. When you show people you care about them, you gain their respect and their attention. Listening effectively creates a Win-Win situation that carries value way beyond a casual or even a highly structured listening encounter.

Employers who stress, model and train employees on listening skills own a competitive advantage. Employees who take responsibility for effective listening become valuable assets to a company and, generally, are the ones promoted faster and more often.

Listen between your ears. If you don't, you lose.

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