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Bite Your Tongue! 10 Ways to Be an Effective Listener

Additional Reading

Bite Your Tongue! 10 Ways to Be an Effective Listener
By Joy Fisher-Sykes © 2005 all Rights Reserved

Have you ever spoken to someone and then felt the need to
say, “Did you hear what I just said?” Why did you feel the
need to ask? Probably because the listener didn’t provide
you with the feedback you needed to know you were heard.

Listening is the most important, yet often most neglected,
communication skill. In fact, the ability to listen is often
rated one of the top five abilities employers seek in their
staff. It’s also certainly highly sought after in the people
nearest and dearest to our hearts.

Here are 10 ways to be an effective listener:

1. Recognize the difference between hearing and listening
* There is a very distinct difference between hearing and
listening. Hearing is to merely perceive sound.
* Listening is the mindful, conscious act and desire to hear,
comprehend, and response to others.
2. Be willing to listen
* Begin with a commitment to listen - be open minded and
consider other points of view.
* Listen regardless of whether you agree or disagree with
what’s said. Resist the urge jump to conclusions; be
defensive or argumentative with the speaker.
3. Be attentive
* Stop what you’re doing and give the speaker your
undivided attention. If it’s not a good time for you, defer the
* Ignore the desire to multi-task and selectively listen (only
listening to bits and pieces of information).
* Remain in the moment for the duration of the conversation
– don’t tune in and out or pretend to be listening when
you’re really thinking about where to go on your next
4. Show respect
* Acknowledge others with your body language - face the
speaker, look interested, and make eye contact.
* Avoid ending the conversation abruptly.
5. Empathize
* Be sensitive, compassionate, and understanding – realize it
may be difficult for the speaker to talk about this matter.
* Empathy doesn’t mean you have to agree with the speaker.
* Avoid thinking about how to “one up” the speaker with
your own tale of woe.
6. Be patient
* We often interrupt because we are afraid we will forget our
point(s). Don’t interrupt - allow the speaker to finish what
she/he has to say.
* Don’t’ finish the speaker’s sentences because you think
they’re taking too long to get to the point.
* Focus on what is being said instead of what you think is
going to be said.
7. Eliminate interruptions and distractions
* When possible, speak in a neutral location to avoid
interruptions and distractions.
* Be aware of and avoid interruptions – phones or pagers
(use voice mail), visitors (close the door) and distractions
(voice mail light, overflowing in box, incoming mail).
8. Seek Understanding
* Focus on main points.
* Paraphrase and seek clarification of points that are unclear
or that you don’t understand.
9. Show you’re actively listening
* Listen with more than just your ears. Acknowledge and
respond to the speaker with facial expressions (smile,
nod/shake your head, eye contact) and verbal comments (“I
see,” “I understand,” “okay,” “yes”) to aid the conversation.
10. Simply Listen
* Sometimes our idea of listening is to jump in and give
unwanted advice. Listening is not an open invitation to
resolve a dilemma. Just listen because often the speaker
simply seeks a sympathetic ear.

Whether you are a manager or employee, husband or wife,
parent or child, pastor or parishioner, friend or foe, listening
is critical to the success of your relationships. Take the time
to truly listen to others and discover you’ll not only improve
your relationships, you will achieve a new level of overall
success in your life. Apply these techniques today so you
can enjoy a better tomorrow!

About the Author

Joy Fisher-Sykes is a professional speaker, author, and a leading expert in the areas of communication, stress management, women issues, and motivation. You can e-mail her at
mailto:jfsykes@thesykesgrp.com, or call her at (757) 427-7032. Go to her web site, http://www.thesykesgrp.com, and signup for her newsletter, OnPoint, and receive the free ebook, "Empowerment and Stress Secrets for the Busy Professional."


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