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Listening Skills Strategies

by Steve Repsys

Verbal communication is the cornerstone of human interaction. Poor listening skills can interfere with the message between speaker and listener. There are many reasons to be good at listening. People listen to gather information and for understanding. It is a skill that can be developed through patience and practice. There is a distinct difference between hearing and listening.

Uninterruption

To practice your listening skills stop talking and allow the person you are communicating with talk without interruption. Let the speaker complete what he is saying before responding. Not talking so much helps to promote active listening, an interactive process that builds to a deeper understanding. To help enhance listening skills, track your conversations for a day. For each dialogue, write down the topic, who spoke more and what you learned from the conversation.

Probing Questions

Ask probing questions to improve listening skills. It enables you better to understand a speaker's message. If she is conveying a need, problem or complaint, questions enable you more accurately to discover the issues involved, which can lead toward finding a solution. There are two types of probing questions, closed and open-ended. A closed question is usually an inquiry that involves a yes or no answer. Open-ended questions encourage more thought. Examples of open-ended questions include, "Why?," and, "What do you think we should do next?"

Confirming Statements

Make confirming statements to enhance listening skills. A confirming statement offers a check-and-balance system. They help to affirm that you have properly understood what the speaker is saying. Confirming statements also give the speaker a chance to add additional information or clarification. There are four steps involved with confirming statements. No. 1: Use a confirming statement, such as, "Let me make sure I understand what you're asking." No. 2: Summarize the main points. "You need that by 5 p.m. today." No. 3: Ask if your understanding is accurate. "Did I get that correct?" No. 4: Clarify any misunderstandings, if necessary.

Focus

Concentrate solely on the speaker. Free your mind of trying to come up with a response. Allow the speaker your complete attention and provide acknowledgments, such as nodding your head. Always look directly at the person talking to you and maintain good eye contact. Keep away from environmental aspects that could be a distraction. When listening, put down anything you are holding to let the speaker know you have his or her undivided attention.

Nonlistening Exercise

Try a "non-listening" exercise to demonstrate what it feels like not to be listened to. For this exercise, you will need a partner. You will attempt to communicate an important idea to the partner. While the are speaking, the partner will purposely not pay attention. This could be done by continually looking at one's watch, shuffling papers, looking away or listening with arms folded. After two to three minutes, switch roles. The purpose of this exercise is to exaggerate the feeling of frustration we feel when someone is not listening to us. Write down how you felt and remember that when you hold conversations with other people.

About the Author

A writing professional with more than 15 years of experience, Steve Repsys is currently employed in a college marketing environment. He is part of a team that produces award-winning publications. He holds a bachelor's degree in communication from Stonehill College and a master's degree in sports marketing from Springfield College.