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Does anyone have any suggestions on improving listening skills? Or know of any good books on the topic?

WillDuke's picture

I wonder if it would be different if you were working on your own listening skills, or someone else's.

Anyway, maybe start with the podcast on taking notes.

One key for me is to stop myself from thinking about what I'm going to say. That's very distracting. The downside is that you will be slower to respond, which can make a conversation stilted.

I did learn a technique in college called "reflective listening." With reflective listening you repeat back what the person just said.

"I am so mad at Charlie."
"It sounds like you're mad at Charlie."
Yeah, he really.... he won't ever wash dishes."
"So Charlie never helps with dishes?"
"It's not just dishes..."

It's amazing how well this works. People will think you're the best listener in the world. Mostly you're just staying out of their way, letting them finish all of their thinking. Then you've really got something.

jhack's picture

To what end (other than being a better communicator) are you trying to be a better listener?

Try these other techniques along with Will's:

- Ask a follow up question which probes or prompts elaboration.
- Say nothing for 5 seconds when the other person finishes. (this one is very hard for some people and can have surprising consequences!) Just nod, make eye contact, radiate positive energy.

Hardest of all: Think about how what they are saying is correct, and what that implies. Stop thinking about your response to what they're saying. Most of us compose our reply before they're done. All these techniques are really designed to keep you from focusing on what you will say next.

John

asteriskrntt1's picture

I have found 2 things that really helped improve my listening skills.

The first was listening to HUNDREDS of podcasts/lectures on my iPod, often in less than ideal listening conditions. It forced me to concentrate to make sure I was getting content and not drifting off.

The second is joining Toastmasters. Yes, you learn to speak. But you are also often listening and required to give feedback on other people's speeches. It forces you to be more atuned.

*RNTT

chuckbo's picture

I'll also recommend Toastmasters, but I want to note that it's not quite intuitive how it helps your listening.

Perhaps this isn't your problem, but people miss a high percentage (I used to know the number) of what other people say because they're already thinking of what they're going to reply. In Toastmasters, we practice "Table Topics" to learn how to organize our thoughts as we speak. This means that when someone else speaks, I can pay closer attention to what they say, confident that when it's my turn to speak, I'll be able to get my thoughts out.

Chuck

vinnie2k's picture

[quote="asteriskrntt1"]I have found 2 things that really helped improve my listening skills.

The first was listening to HUNDREDS of podcasts/lectures on my iPod, often in less than ideal listening conditions. It forced me to concentrate to make sure I was getting content and not drifting off.

*RNTT[/quote]
And I am so frustrated when I listen to podcasts because I can't participate :-)

I agree, listening to podcasts, radio shows, etc. really helps. Also, practice at home, with your spouse or kids.

jwyckoff's picture

A great book is Crucial Conversations. Though there are other parts of the book that don't relate to listening skills (which are good as well), they do talk about how to listen and how to get real information out of people. They talk about AMPP

[b]A[/b]sk. "Do you want to talk about that?"
[b]M[/b]irror. "You say you're ok, but you're body language seems like you are angry. Are you?"
[b]P[/b]araphrase: "If I understand you correctly, you said that..."
[b]P[/b]rime: (to someone who won't talk), "Are you mad because John missed the deadline?"

Good book all-around.

magnus's picture

Hi,

Listening to audio is a great way to learn listening. However, in the long term it won't get you much specific feedback on your skills. It is something that is possible to fall a sleep to ( aslong as it's not M&Ms energetic voices).

A friend of mine, a psychologist, waits until after his patient is done talking to even think about formulating a respons. This way he is devoting his entire concentration to listening to what the patient has to say.

The technique takes quite som effort, especially for high I's and D's, but it is definitely an important skill to learn.

Good luck

sromley's picture

[quote="connick"]A great book is Crucial Conversations. Though there are other parts of the book that don't relate to listening skills (which are good as well), they do talk about how to listen and how to get real information out of people. They talk about AMPP

Good book all-around.[/quote]

I agree - I'm using the book with my direct reports. They love it!

eagerApprentice's picture

One thing that always worked for me was recently mentioned by M&M, so I've got the guts to mention it now :).

I've always taken the goal of restating the main point of what someone is talking about to me in a different way when they are done talking before I give my opinion/feedback. It makes me listen more, lets them know I am listening, opens them up for feedback, and provides tremendous amounts of clarity about where each person stands - which in the end, can be more important than agreement itself.

bflynn's picture

Two suggestions - 1) Convince yourself that the best result is understanding what the person said. 2) Doubt your own perfection in listening so that you no longer trust yourself to interrupt when you haven't heard it all.

Now the other person would just hurry the heck up and say it....

Brian