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Are You an Excellent Listener?

Communication is defined as the art and technique of using words effectively to impart information and ideas. There are two aspects of communication – speaking and listening. In this article we will be discussing listening. One of the most challenging tasks of being an effective communicator is being a good listener. This in fact is not an easy skill to develop. Listening requires you to be fully tuned in and focused on what someone else is saying. This may sound easy in principle but the fact is there are many ways to be distracted.

Over the last few years cell phones and blackberries have become part of everyday life. Have you noticed that people in restaurants and coffee shops often are not engaging in conversation with their companion, but rather are texting or on their phones? The art of fully listening seems to have diminished.

There are the three obstacles you need to overcome in order to become an effective listener.

1. Suspending your own needs

Listening demands that you take an interest in the speaker and pay attention to what they are saying. This necessitates suspending your own needs at that moment and control the urge to interrupt.

Often what happens is before a person is finished speaking the listener rushes in to offer an opinion or suggestion. This is premature and as a result your comments may not be effective. If you are distracted by your own thoughts or planning how you will respond to what is being said, then you really aren’t listening.

2. Avoiding Hidden Assumptions

What you think about the person who is speaking can influence your listening. If you don’t value the opinions of that person or you don’t like their speaking style, you might not pay attention to what they are saying. Perhaps a family member and you tend to have repetitive discussions, which then leads to an upsetting outcome. As a result you might tune them out.

The difficulty is that there may be times when others are saying something important or different but since you assume the conversation will always be the same, you miss the opportunity to create a different result.

3. Minimizing Emotional Reactivity

Think of a time when you were having a conversation with someone and they said something which made you upset or angry. Were you able to continue concentrating on what they were saying or were you caught up in your own feelings? Don’t be surprised if you stopped listening. Emotions can definitely interfere with your listening skills.

Recently a colleague said something during a meeting that I strongly disagreed with. I was feeling quite annoyed. I had a much harder time listening to the discussion because I was caught up in my feelings. When I was able to put aside my emotions aside and really concentrate on what was being said, a clearer understanding and resolution was reached.

In order to help you develop your listening skills here are a few suggestions.

    1. Don’t be distracted by your thoughts. Stay focused
    2. Don’t assume you know what another individual is going to say.
    3. Ask questions for clarification.

If you aren’t listening then the outcome of a situation could be negatively impacted. Improving your listening skills contributes to better relationships and more success.

Copyright 2009 by Gail Solish. All rights reserved.

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About the Author
Gail Solish, MSW, RSW provides Executive/Personal coaching to managers, directors and executives focused on workplace development and relationship management. Claim your FR-EE e-course “Unleash Your Potential and Increase Productivity and Fulfillment” at or contact Gail at 416-322-0029.

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