One of the best ways to derail a career is by failing to listen—after all, if we don’t listen, we can’t respond in a thoughtful, considered way. Cutting a speaker off, thinking about what we’ll say next, or just being distracted when someone speaks are all ways that negatively affect our ability to listen and recall what a speaker has said.
Communication experts explain that people often do not tune in because they filter what others say through their own preexisting ideas. That, combined with the fact that millennials simply have less opportunity to practice listening because they communicate face-to-face less than previous generations, makes it especially important for younger employees to work on their listening skills.
Experts suggest the following strategies for effective listening:
- Prepare when you know you will need to pay attention to an important conversation
- Clear your mind of distractions
- Make a list of items to discuss during the meeting or conversation
- Turn off the phone
- Go in without preconceived notions about what the speaker will say
Then during the conversation, try the following:
- Take notes to help you focus
- Paraphrase what the speaker says to make sure you have heard it correctly
- Ask questions to clarify points
- Be aware of the speaker’s body language and facial expressions to assess nonverbal communication cues
- Show you are listening by adding a nod or saying “hmmm”
- Make good eye contact
By becoming a good listener, you will offer better suggestions and ideas and be a more valuable employee.
- How might taking notes improve your focus during a conversation?
- What kinds of body language might provide cues about what a speaker is thinking or feeling?
- Why are good listening skills especially important in group or team settings?
Source: Shellenbarger, S. (2014, July 22). Tuning in: Improving your listening skills. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com