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Listening is a key skill needed for success in business, but most of us are distracted, preoccupied or forgetful when we should be listening. Research shows that immediately after we listen to someone, we only recall about 50% of what they said, yet it’s possible you spend more time listening to others than using any other interpersonal skill in the workplace.
Like other skills, listening takes practice in order to get the best value from it.
Here are some tips on how to become a better listener at work.
Focus on the other person fully: turning away, continuing to type or looking at your phone will give a clear impression that you are not listening or interested in the other person.
Always let the speaker finish before you begin to talk. When you interrupt, it looks like you have waited to speak, rather than actually listened. Allow for comfortable silences to slow down the exchange and to give a person time to think as well as talk. Silence can also be very helpful in diffusing an unproductive interaction.
Make it your aim to really understand and empathise with the main point that the speaker is making. You can check with the other person if you are not sure of this by repeating back to them what you think their message is, and asking if you are accurate.
If you are not sure you understand what the speaker has said, it is ok to just ask. It is also good to ask for clarification on specific points that the speaker is making. For example you could say ‘Am I right in thinking that you are feeling like you would enjoy more responsibility at work but are not sure how best to ask for it?’
Use body language skills to show the other person that you are interested: for instance nod to show that you understand or smile, frown, laugh, or be silent according to what is required at that time.
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