How to be a better listener

How to be a better listener


“It pays to listen,” says Jennifer Lazarow, instructor of the Professional Development Center’s “Listen Up!,” a one-day workshop designed to help participants learn to be better listeners and improve their overall communication skills. Lazarow has the statistics to support her statement. She offers that listening habits can affect:

  • Job satisfaction and turnover. 46% of those who quit their jobs did so because they felt they weren’t heard or listened to and were therefore unappreciated. (U.S. Dept of Labor, 1999)
  • Writing and speaking skills. Effective listening is a skill that should be developed as a foundation to be successful in the more “active” skills of speaking and writing. (Nanyang Technological University, 2003)
  • Problem solving and empowerment. Effective listening helps talkers reduce their emotional level so they can think a problem through.

Lazarow offers the following tips as a sample of the kinds of skills and advice you will find in "Listen Up!":

  • When addressed by a speaker, stop what you are doing and face them. Give the kind of good eye contact that you would like to receive. In our society, giving your full attention and making eye contact gives the message that you are being respectful and truly listening. By doing this, you are modeling the kind of behavior you expect to receive in return. It also helps you, as a listener, not miss any information or risk offending the other person.
  • Avoid finishing other people’s sentences. Interrupting others when they speak is rude. It can also signal to the speaker and those around you that you are impatient and disrespectful of their opinions, thoughts or input. Finishing other people’s sentences can fluster the speaker, make them lose their point, or withdraw from the conversation. In the work world, this diminishes your team’s collective ideas and creativity.
  • Be aware that “why” questions put people on the defensive. Try to start your questions with “what” or “how.” When you start a question with “why,” it sends a message to the speaker that the reasoning behind their statements is suspect or not apparent to you. The speaker may feel that you are calling their values, their judgments and their opinions into question. A “what” or “how” question will work better to discover the reasoning behind a decision. For example: “How did you make that decision?”, “What were some of the criteria that you worked with?”
  • Summarize the speaker’s main points and restate any action items you or the speaker have agreed to during the conversation. This is important to do to ensure that you completely understood what was being communicated. It also allows the speaker to verify that what you heard is what he or she intended. This way you can both walk away from the conversation with a clear understanding of what transpired and what is expected in a follow-up.

“Listen Up!” takes place October 21 from 8:30 to 4:30 in the Thompson Conference Center. There is still time to register online or read more about the course.


Tags: tips, professional development center, listening, listen up, jennifer lazarow, how to,