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Developing Active Listening Skills

In their book For Your Improvement, Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger define listening as: “knowing what others have said and meant to say, and leaving people comfortable that they have had their say.”

This does not necessarily mean you agree with what was said but rather that you used the following active listening skills:

  1. You didn’t interrupt
  2. You are able to paraphrase
  3. You listened for underlying meaning
  4. You are accepting of differing views

Yet, how often have you had a discussion, conference or phone call when you felt you weren’t really heard? Or have you ever ended a conversation and then felt unclear as to the message or weren’t really sure what you committed to? Maybe you were going over your shopping list instead of truly listening?

Here are some active listening tips to help you stay focused and engaged:

  • Keep your mouth closed (if your mouth is open, your ears are closed)
  • Keep eye contact (this helps with attention levels)
  • Take notes (this will help with paraphrasing)
  • Don’t frown and fidget
  • Let the person know if you have accepted or rejected what they said and why

Additional tips from Lombardo and Eichinger:

  • Don’t suggest words or finish sentences when a pause occurs
  • Listen, don’t solve, or judge
  • Ask questions to clarify understanding
  • If time is an issue, let the person know and schedule additional time
  • Let the person know if you need more facts or discussion before making a decision
  • Be aware of your non-listening behaviors (pencil tapping, raised eyebrows, blank stares, “zoning out”)

Eric Shannon


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