Pay Attention: Improving Listening Skills

Listening skill requires conscientious practice

You’ve probably heard the old one-liner: “He was too poor to pay attention!”

Maybe he was poor because he didn’t pay attention! Does the following conversation sound like a meeting you’ve attended?

“Just a reminder: the luncheon seminar for department managers will start at 11:30 on Tuesday the 23rd. We’re holding it at the east side Hilton this year. Any questions?”

“Is the 23rd a Thursday?”

“Are supervisors invited?”

“Is it a breakfast, like last year?”

“Is that the downtown Hilton, or the one on the east side?”

You only have to attend a few meetings anywhere to realize that listening is a lost art. However, in the workplace, attentiveness is expected from all employees. Listening well is not a natural trait, but a skill that anyone can master.

Here are a few pointers on having effective listening skills and becoming a skilled listener:

  • Focus on the speaker. If you’re thinking about something else, you’re not listening.
  • Involve your body. Sit up straight. Look at the speaker. Nod your agreement. Jot notes.
  • Make appropriate and occasional comments, but don’t dominate the give-and-take of a meeting or conversation. If you’re thinking about your next response, you’re not listening. And remember, your comment is only worth the same two cents that your colleagues’ comments are worth.
  • Manage your time well. You can’t listen if you’re worried about something else. If all of the responsibilities of the day are scheduled and accounted for, you can focus on each item in turn without having your mind wander to the next crisis.

Becoming a good listener takes practice and preparation, but it’s a skill that employers notice and respect. Pay attention, because in the future your listening skills just might payoff!

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