7 Tips for Being a Better Listener

Image courtesy of Jonathan Powell's photostream

Image courtesy of Jonathan Powell’s photostream

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

I used to be a great listener, back when I knew I didn’t know much of anything and was eager to absorb any insight people had to offer. But nowadays I sometimes find myself zoning out during conversations, or interrupting people before they can make their points. I’m not sure what changed – maybe I’m losing patience in my old age, or maybe selective hearing is a natural byproduct of growing confidence in my own abilities.

No matter the case, I know I need to improve because listening is important. When I’m the one talking, or when I’m lost in my own thoughts, I’m not absorbing knowledge or benefiting from somebody else’s input on a situation.

So here are seven habits I’m going to adopt in my quest to become a better listener:

•    Don’t predict outcomes – Let conversations unfold naturally without trying to drive them toward the outcome already envisioned. Sometimes people rush to judgment or get lost in planning the next thing they’re going to say rather than just listening and trying to truly understand what’s unfolding. Try to keep an open mind, listen before responding and be open to wherever the conversation might lead.

•    Remember that everyone is a teacher – Appreciate that everyone you meet has something to teach you. You’ll never meet anyone who doesn’t know something you don’t, so try to take at least one nugget of knowledge from everyone – and remember to return the favor!

•    Ask questions – If you’re unclear on something, chances are you’re not alone! Ask questions to make sure you understand, ensure everyone is on the same page and you can all move forward in the same direction.

•    Pretend you know nothing – Approach the situation with a fresh perspective and play devil’s advocate. It’s a great way to see things through someone else’s eyes and can expose you to ideas you hadn’t considered.

•    Don’t let yourself be bombarded – If someone wants to talk about something important and it’s not a good time because you’re preoccupied with something else, say so. If you’re not focused on the conversation, it’s almost a given that you’ll tune out key information.

•    Get the facts – There are three sides to every story: my side, your side and the truth. Don’t go by heresy.

•    Then make the best decision you can – Use what you’ve learned by listening to make the best decisions you can with the information you have. And if you ever find yourself at an impasse, run your dilemma by a good listener to see what he or she thinks!

Do you have examples of or tips for being a good listener? Share them in the comments.

AboutMichelle McCafferty

Michelle joined the Proforma team in 2008. As the Manager of Business Development for Major Accounts, she helps Proforma Owners win new and grow existing programs through proposal and presentation development, as well as periodic Relationship Reviews. Before joining Proforma, Michelle attended Cleveland State University where she earned a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication.

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