About Listening Skills

Listening skills are important for success in any relationship. Listening attentively opens the door for understanding information and finding insight for specific situations, and it involves much more than just your sense of hearing.


Listening skills require you to: Give eye contact Pay full attention Disregard distractions Ask mental questions about what is being said Not prejudge the message


Mindtools™ states we remember a 25 to 50 percent of what we hear. That means we miss out on half of our conversations. If you remove hindrances and learn listening skills, you make better decisions, improve relationships, understand others and retain more information.


The four main purposes of listening are to gain information, for enjoyment, to learn and to understand. Poor listening typically increases conflicts because a poor listener acts based on what he thinks he heard vs. what was really said. For example, when a parent is having a discussion with her children, she will ask them to tell her what she just said. "I didn't hear you," they may reply, even though they were sitting right in front of her. Watch out, conflict!


Listening requires more than two ears. Eye contact and nonverbal cues to the communicator is one listening skill that shows you are paying attention. Also, asking clarifying questions throughout a conversation indicates that you want to make sure you heard and understood what is being said. Summarizing or paraphrasing after several minutes of conversation shows that you are connecting the dots about what the communicator is saying. If you haven't understood, then after you paraphrase or summarize, the communicator will correct you or rephrase what he is trying to say. (Notice that none of the basic listening skills includes giving opinions or advice; the point is to understand first.)


Active listening skills will help you: Understand tasks on the job and increase promotion opportunities Build rapport with co-workers and colleagues Enhance understanding of concepts and applications in educational settings Increase chances of answering questions appropriately Ascertain the underlying meaning of what others are saying Build trust within your relationships because the people you listen to will feel respected and understood.