Dollars and Sense: Listening skills important to build upon

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Are you a person who is constantly looking to improve yourself? If you really want to get ahead, consider upgrading your listening skills.

Let&8217;s separate &8220;human communications&8221; into four skills; listening, speaking, reading and writing.

The order we&8217;re introduced to them in life is as listed above.

First we&8217;re talked to (listen), next we speak, then we read and finally we write.

Yet, when we go to school, we&8217;re taught these skills in exactly the opposite order. Rarely is listening a required communication skill course.

Our education system has let us down!

Research shows that we spend well over half of our day listening to others, and no more than 15 percent of our day on any of the other three (reading, writing or talking) skills.

Unfortunately little is done in the way of formal education to teach effective listening skills.

Become an effective listener and you&8217;ll possess a skill that few are educated in, and even fewer are competent in.

To improve your listening skills, find an authoritative book on the subject, or attend a class dedicated to the topic. Also consider these tips to enhance your listening ability.

Stay focused.

Keep external distractions to a minimum and focus intently on what the other person is saying.

Pay attention to words, expressions and tone of voice.

Believe it or not, the actual words spoken only represent about seven percent of a message. Tone of voice, body language and facial expressions must be observed and considered as well.

Don&8217;t interrupt. Interruptions disrupt your ability to listen attentively.

Watch your filters. It&8217;s normal to filter what the communicator is saying into what you think or want to hear. Stay open minded and try not to judge what the other person is saying based on who they are, your own beliefs, etc.

Summarize and feedback the message. After you’ve heard the message, provide brief feedback in the form of &8220;What I heard you say was….&8221; to indicate to the sender that you heard him/her.

With committed practice and focus, you can develop your listening skills to a proficient level