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One of the most powerful tools available to assist you in business is as obvious as the nose on your face?make that the ears on your head.
That tool is your listening skills. Not only is listening a basic element of effective communication, but it is an integral part of building strong relationships. And, it is the cornerstone of your people skills, the skills that account for 85% of your success in business.
TRUE/FALSE: Listening is one of the easiest tasks we face in the course of a business day. After all, we all know how to listen, right? If you answered TRUE to this statement, return to square one in the game called Business Smarts.
Now hear this. Effective listening takes work. It is not a passive state of suspension, but rather an active process that involves your mind and body. By listening in a manner that indicates your desire to hear and understand, you show respect for a speaker and your interest in the topic or information that is being conveyed. And, here's the bonus card in the game--when you listen to others, they tend to return the favor. In most cases, when you are perceived as a considerate and thoughtful listener, you will be given an opportunity to get your message across.
So, what does it take to be a good listener? To begin, it takes your undivided attention. Studies have shown that on average, we can speak about 100-150 words per minute, and we are capable of processing up to 300-400 words per minute. So where is your mind going with all that extra time? Too often, it is formulating your response to the comments being made; following your gaze over the speaker's shoulder; mentally checking items off your To Do list; debating if you should answer your cell phone; or strategizing how not to be late to pick up your dry cleaning (or was it the kids?). In other words, your mind is wandering. And, when your mind is wandering, you're not listening in the active sense of the word.
We have been led to believe that multi-tasking is a virtue, but this is not the case when it comes to listening. The ramifications of allowing distractions to carry your attention away from a face-to-face conversation, meeting or telephone call are numerous, and may include misunderstanding what is being said; over- or under-reacting; missing an opportunity to build or strengthen a business relationship, and failing to show respect for a speaker. And, you may be surprised to learn that poor listening skills are one of the most-often mentioned shortcomings in employee evaluations and are near the top of the list of complaints that employees have about their supervisors.
Here are some guidelines to help you improve your listening skills:
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