Get an A+ in Listening

Being an effective communicator is about more than just getting your message across. A lot of times we forget the most important part of the equation – understanding the messages of others. Being a good listener is the cornerstone of being a good worker and leader. But this skill hardly gets the attention it deserves.

Dr. Travis Bradberry, author and president of TalentSmart, recently wrote an article on LinkedIn with action steps to become a better listener. He cites a study at George Washington University, saying “listening can influence up to 40% of a leader’s job performance.” He gives seven steps to become a better listener, of which you can┬ácheck out a few highlighted below:

Put away your phone: This is definitely a newer problem when it comes to listening and multi-tasking. It’s not possible to have your focus in two places, the phone in your hand and the person in front of you. Be engaged in conversation and people are more likely and willing to share honest thoughts.

Practice reflective listening: Paraphrase what you heard to make sure that your interpretation is correct. This leaves less room for miscommunication and misunderstanding. You also give the speaker the opportunity to hear how his or her message was translated and gives them the opportunity to clarify if anything was missed.

Keep your mouth shut: If someone else is talking, they shouldn’t be interrupted. Unless you’re asking detailed questions to get more out of the speaker, let them finish their whole thought or instruction before chiming in. This way, their train of thought doesn’t get off track. Jumping in before a speaker is done is an unconscious way to tell them to be quiet, or that you’re done listening to them, and people can be discouraged or feel shut down.

According to Dr. Bradberry, “effective listening is something that can absolutely be learned and mastered.” What action steps are you taking to flex your listening muscles?

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