Learning to listen

15 Aug 2017 by Lynne Wilkins.

The power of reflective listening can’t be underestimated when you’re interviewing but you can benefit from using it professionally and socially too. Good listeners tend to make effective managers. Listening properly for any amount of time can be draining, so if you are hiring, try to limit yourself to one or a maximum of two interviews a day, otherwise you’ll find you switch off. If you are a job seeker, think about how you listen and how you could improve your listening:

Being conscious: Begin by noticing how well you currently listen and take more time to think about how you can improve your listening skills.

Ask questions: Be enquiring, think about what’s being said and ask passive questions to ensure you have a full picture. Repeat the instruction or paraphrase the point to confirm your understanding. Reflect back key phrases from the dialogue for extra emphasis. Asking questions is a great technique for networking professionally and socially – the more you do it, the more you’ll notice how little other people do it.

Be present: Don’t get distracted while someone is speaking to you. Show them you are present and engaged by making eye contact. However busy you are stop what you’re doing, look away from your screen or put down your phone so you can concentrate.

Body language: Send more positive signals to communicate that you are listening. As well as using eye contact you can nod, bend your head to one side or lean forward slightly. You’ll probably find you do this naturally, but it’s useful to take note of how you listen.

Empathise: Try to put yourself in the mind of the person you are listening to and understand their perspective. Remain open minded, even if you don’t agree, it’s enough to listen to their view. In general people respond very positively to others they have empathy with.

What can you add? The context of the conversation will provide most of what you need, but what are you expected to add? It could be ideas for a project, solutions to a problem, emotional support, an opinion or an alternative view. Dialogues are two-way.

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