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Submitted by the USPS Employee Assistance Program
We all know how important it is to be a good communicator; being a good listener is the first step to improving communication. So, what is listening? We listen to obtain information, to understand, for enjoyment and to learn
Listening is the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages. Listening is key to all effective communication and, without the ability to listen effectively, messages easily are misunderstood. When this happens, communication breaks down and people can become frustrated or irritated.
Listening is not just important in our personal lives, but also at our place of employment. Many employers provide listening skills training for their employees. It has been shown that good listening skills can lead to better customer satisfaction, greater productivity with fewer mistakes and increased sharing of information that can lead to more creative and innovative work.
Listening is not the same as hearing. Hearing is a physical process that happens automatically when sounds enter your ears. Listening requires more than that; it requires focus and concentrated effort—mental and, sometimes, physical, as well. Good listeners pay attention not only to the story, but also to how it is told, to body language and to voice. Your ability to listen effectively depends on the degree to which you perceive and understand these messages.
Benefits of Being a Good Listener
Genuine listening helps build re-lationships, solve problems, ensure understanding, resolve conflicts and improve accuracy. At work, effective listening means fewer errors and less wasted time. At home, it helps develop resourceful, self-reliant kids who can solve their own problems. Listening builds friendships and careers
By becoming a better listener, you:
How Not Listening Can Get in the Way
Not being a good listener has its down sides. One common problem is that instead of listening closely to what someone is saying, we often get distracted after a sentence or two. Instead, we start to think about what we are going to say in reply or think about unrelated things. This means we do not fully listen to the rest of the speaker’s message.
Instead of truly listening, we may find ourselves daydreaming or thinking about other things rather than focusing on what the speaker is saying. It can be more difficult to focus when somebody is speaking very quickly or very quietly or if what they are communicating is complicated or unfamiliar. We also may get distracted by the speaker’s personal appearance or by what someone else is saying that may sound more interesting.
Often when we are not truly at-tentive in listening, our lack of attention will be reflected in our body language. Lack of eye contact, posture or turning away from the speaker are signs you truly are not listening. Often the speaker will detect this and stop talking or they could become offended or upset. When someone feels they are not being listened to, they can get frustrated and may be less willing to engage in conversation in the future. Poor listening is a common problem in relationships, as well as in the workplace.
How to Improve Listening Skills
Listening is not a passive process; we need to be actively engaged. Often our main concern while listening is to formulate ways to respond. This is not a function of listening. We should try to focus fully on what is being said and how it’s being said in order to more fully understand the speaker.
Here are some tips for improving your listening skills:
Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness and the quality of your relationships with others. Clearly, listening is a skill from which we can all benefit by improving. By becoming a better listener, you can improve your productivity as well as your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate.
What’s more, you’ll avoid conflict and misunderstandings. Becoming a better listener requires making a conscious effort to hear not only the words another person is saying, but, more importantly, the complete message being communicated. It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be an active, engaged listener.
Old habits are hard to break. Your EAP program offers counseling and life coaching to help with communication skills and becoming a better listener. Feel free to contact the EAP at 1-800-EAP-4YOU (TTY: 877-492-7341) or www.EAP4YOU.com with any questions or for more information.