Listening = Understanding and Understanding = Learning, Both Matter

When was the last time you listened? No, stop, really listened and really heard and really understood what someone else said? It’s not as easy and doesn’t happen as often as you think. Listening is so demanding that it requires all of our attention. Absolutely all of it.

Some of the most important good listening skills begin with turning off all our our little electronic toys — phones, laptops, tablets, unless we are using them to take notes. And then we should turn off all the beeps and bells and alerts and concentrate on one focused writing app. But there’s much more. You have to work hard to get yourself out of the way so you can hear what is being said and not what you want to hear or thought you heard.

To be a better listener, try these steps:

1) Be present

  • Stop doing other things
  • Remove “your” distractions
  • Go to the bathroom before
  • Put everything away, out of sight

2) Clear your mind

  • Stop thinking about you and your stuff
  • Stop all those nagging voices in your head (hear them right now?)
  • Once you hear silence,  you are open to listening

3) Focus

  • Train your eyes, ears, your whole body on the speaker, square your shoulders on the speaker
  • Keep eye contact with the speaker as much as you can (don’t be creepy)
  • Break away to take notes quickly, don’t worry about spelling or formatting, fix those later
  • Avoid “hiding” behind laptop and tablet screens

4) Listen to more than words

  • Observe body language, especially eyes
  • Watch for subtle signs in the speaker – movement of hands, gestures, forward or backward leaning
  • Turning shoulders away from you is a clear sign of disconnection

5) Be patient

  • Wait, do not fill the dead air if it occurs, quiet your mind
  • Stay attentive
  • Do not fill the quiet spot even though we hate dead air

6) Hold your reactions

  • Your face, your words, your motions and emotions says volumes
  • This is easier said than done
  • Acknowledge your own feelings but swallow them and listen on
  • Write a quick note if you need to clear the thoughts out of your mind

7) Know what you need to learn

  • The meeting should have a purpose, know why you are there
  • Not everything is important
  • Know the objective of the meeting beforehand
  • Know the agenda of the meeting beforehand
  • Listen for the sources of pain, problems – the trouble spots you might help solve
  • Remember, our ultimate role is usually as a problem solver

8) Process and understand

  • Listening is sometimes a dialogue with the speaker
  • Ask for clarification
  • Play back what you heard and what you think you understood
  • Resolve disconnects before leaving the meeting

Listening Matters

Good listening helps you better understand what was really said, and playing back what you think you heard clarifies your understanding. The speaker will appreciate it and you will come away understanding like never before.

Try these tips the next time you find yourself in a meeting, or a class and see how much clearer your understanding becomes. Let us know how it goes.



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