JEFF SAPERSTEIN

Helping People Make Career Transitions
That Work for Them

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 Founder Business Executives and STEM Professional Network

How to Improve Your Listening Skills

If you want to build credibility, loyalty, and good team collaboration, then “bone up” on good listening, and make it core to your leadership style. Listening is an acquired skill and can be a real career boost once you become conscious of how you show up — you should become aware of your own listening style so you can self-monitor and improve performance. Here are several ways you can distinguish good listening from poor listening:

More on Listening Skills

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The Five Keys to Listening for Better Relationships & Success

By: Jeff Saperstein
As Published in Live, Lead, Play
Did you know? You could be more successful just by practicing good listening techniques— and there are some common listening “mistakes” to avoid.

If you want to build credibility, loyalty, and good team collaboration, then “bone up” on good listening, and make it core to your leadership style.

Listening is an acquired skill and can be a real career boost once you become conscious of how you show up — you should become aware of your own listening style so you can self-monitor and improve performance.

Here are several ways you can distinguish good listening from poor listening:

The Good

Active Listening: Concentrating for accurate perception of the sender’s message. You want to clarify when needed and show that you really do care what the other person means and that you “get it”.

Strategy: asking for clarification; concisely paraphrasing without parroting a speaker’s remarks; asking the speaker to rephrase a statement; and waiting out pauses, as a speaker will often expand on an idea when allowed time.

Informational Listening: Seeking additional or complementary information from the speaker without changing the subject.

Strategy: asking questions or making statements to further probe the speaker’s ideas. Make sure you’re clarifying the speaker’s ideas and not redirecting to your own.

Intuitive Listening: Connecting the dots for the person or probing for the concern behind a question.

Strategy: restate what the person has said, but frame it differently to demonstrate insight into how he or she may be conflicted or could see opportunity where there is fear or constraint.

Empathic Listening: Responding to establish common ground with the speaker on an emotional or sympathetic level.

Strategy: validate how normal and understandable the person’s feelings and thoughts are in the situation. People are more eager to be open to you if you show that you understand their emotions and thinking. Know when is the right time and the right way to be empathic by listening for when the person is willing to hear your observation and encouragement.

Critical Listening: Evaluating the merits and demerits of the speaker’s ideas and passing judgments. Critical listening is essential, but should be typically preceded by active and informational listening. Unfortunately, critical listening is the most common kind of response in a dialogue.

Strategy: before you judge or critique, clarify whether you’re questioning an assumption; the evidence/statistic of support; or the conclusion/recommendation being proposed. Discern which part of the statement is being challenged, rather than dismiss everything altogether.

The Poor

Pseudo Listening: Nonverbally exhibited attentive listening, but not mentally processing the content of the speaker.

Strategy: multi-tasking is the enemy of good listening. If you find yourself mentally “checking out” or scanning your mobile device while someone is talking to you, better to ask that person to stop and clarify rather than tune him/her out.

Sidetracking: Moving the direction of a dialogue based on egocentric concerns or the agenda of the listener.

Strategy: Changing the subject by not allowing the full dimension of a topic to be explored. This is manipulative — it’s better to ask for permission to move on, give your reaction to what was said, or change the subject with both parties’ buy-in.

Premature Replying: Cutting off the speaker before she/he has completed an idea, thus diminishing the importance of the initial speaker’s statement.

Strategy: even if you know or can anticipate what the speaker will be saying, hold off on interrupting. Sometimes people need to vent, repeat themselves, or meander a bit before they’re ready for you to intrude and take the conversation in a different direction.

Defensive Listening: Replying with a hostile tone—which often encourages the initial speaker to respond in kind, thereby, escalating the negative emotions in a communication exchange. Communication patterns are reflective.

Strategy: recognize when you feel your ”button is being pushed”; do not impulsively react from your gut. Sometimes it’s better to step back, take some time, and get some objectivity. Examine how your energy is reacting to something the other person is doing and saying that may be your own trigger.

Awareness is the beginning for change. Notice which of these listening strategies and habits you consciously or unconsciously default to. Actively initiate how you can improve. The payback in both your professional and personal life will be rewarding, and you may find you will have less stress, more enjoyment, and better relationships.

Now, who doesn’t want that? Listen up to level up your success!

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