How do you feel when you when you ask a question and you receive an answer unrelated to your question? You know it. The other person was not listening to you and was only interested in making his own points.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with a telecommunications expert. I was questioning the comparable features offered by two different iPhone telecommunications carriers. During the conversation I pointed out that one carrier had an additional benefit. “With that carrier”, I said, “you are able to use the Internet while on the phone.” The expert quickly shot back something to the effect, “you’re not going to surf the internet while you are driving.” I don’t use the phone while driving and I did not even ask about driving. I had another reason for favoring the carrier with this service. When I am at a remote office I can email something to a client while we are speaking. I do most of my work out of the office. Although I had a specific need he never bother to ask me. He was trying to steer me rather than helping me find my solution. How often do we try to insert our own opinions to try to persuade others?

We need to start listening.

We need to listen twice as much as we talk. That is why we have two ears and one mouth. In order to connect with people we have to communicate and communication is a two way street. I think it’s a fair statement to say that how well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others.

For some reason people place a high priority on speaking and presentation skills but do not place the same emphasis on listening skills. Without downgrading the importance of good speech, it would be better for us to upgrade the importance and quality of our listening habits. If we believe that empathy is an important trait then we should realize that is impossible to understand what someone is thinking or feeling if we do all of the talking.

Here are 10 tips for improving your active listening skills:

1.     Stop Talking. You can’t talk and listen at the same time.

2.     Focus on the other person. Give the other person your undivided attention.

3.     Show active participation. Nod, ask questions, try to understand and give your full attention.

4.     Empathize. Take a moment to understand the other person’s viewpoint even if you disagree.

5.     Keep an open mind. Be very slow to disagree or criticize. Ask questions to probe for understanding.

6.     Have patience for people who take longer to express themselves.

7.     Nonverbal signals have more meaning than the words. Are the nonverbal signals in sync with the words?

8.     Watch for your nonverbal signals and control your emotions.

9.     Provide feedback. For example, paraphrase with, "What I'm hearing is," and "Sounds like you are saying."

10. Lighten up. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. Appropriate humor can help to insure positive outcomes.



Your ability to understand and apply active listening principles will directly influence your results in your business, in sales, in leadership, and in your personal life.

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