Seven traits of a proficient listener

A question that people in business often forget to ask thselves is: Am I a good listener?Sure, many people see the value in developing communication skills with their friends and family but they should be encouraged to apply a similar principle to their professional lives with the aim of changing the way practices are run for the better.{{quote-A:R-W:450-I:2-Q: No matter what the context is, ask a variety of questions, give space for other people to respond and allow each person to take a turn. }}It’s rare to find people who are good listeners in every situation. Listening is like any other skill in that anyone can develop proficiency. Proficiency comes from educating oneself on how to develop a stronger skill-set then applying this skill-set to different situations.For example, a staff mber (let’s call him Dan) might be considered a great listener when discussing the weekend’s football results but a poor listener when he is presented with a personal probl between co-workers.What follows are seven ways in which Dan, or anyone, can learn to be a proficient listener in more than one context. Rber, the information can be applied to both relationships with colleagues and customers.1. Individualise the speaker

Make an effort to notice different qualities of each person such as accent, tone-of-voice, body language, facial expression or frequency of giving input. This is straightforward, although it is important to note that not everyone is always focused on other people while they are listening.

This is a learned skill that requires the effort of noticing smaller, often-ignored details in another person.2. Giving full attention

Prepare to listen and set aside all potential distractions. In this situation, Dan would stop his current task on the computer and show through action that he is interested in being completely present for the conversation.3. Engage throughout interaction

Ask closed, open and probing questions, wait to respond and take turns speaking. It might come more naturally for Dan to talk about his favourite football team; however, he might get so excited that he doesn’t realise he interrupted someone else while they were sharing their experience at the latest game. No matter what the context is, ask a variety of questions, give space for other people to respond and allow each person to take a turn.4. See value in all forms of communication

This means not taking everything literally all of the time – it’s about using verbal and non-verbal clues to search for meaning. For example, if a manager is in discussion with staff mbers and one is crinkling her eyebrows or looking completely dumbfounded with her eyes indicate anger but saying, “Oh yeah, I totally agree,” the manager could take her words literally or he could question her contradictory non-verbal cues.5. Interpret to gain understanding

Separate main and supporting points and follow a sequence of ideas/ messages/instructions to draw insightful inferences. This point is important because it integrates many tools into one. It looks at all of the pieces. An individual with this skill has the ability to prioritise each method of communication – non-verbal cues; tone of voice; the enthusiasm of the speaker; the literal words – in effort to gain the most information and insight.6. Evaluate credibility

Everyone speaks and communicates from the lens of his or her own personal experiences. Having this awareness is important because it brings forward the value of not making assumptions. One’s experience has the potential to cloud one’s ability to listen fully without assumed understanding.

In conclusion, even though these seven traits of a proficient listener are important, always rber the platinum rule of listening: listen to others as they want to be heard.

7. Dont ignore non-verbal cues, follow through on interaction

Give feedback, paraphrase what was said and identify next steps. If the manager ignores his staff’s facial expressions and just takes her words literally, he’ll miss a key opportunity to understand her perspective, which could cloud her perception of him as a leader.

If he instead pulls the staff mber aside after the discussion, mentions that he’d noticed her shocked looks and invites her to share what she is really thinking either in that moment or at another time, he would be opening the door to allow for honest feedback.

Following through on important conversations is key to having the qualities of a skilled listener.


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