Become a Better Listener

Hello again!

betterlistenerIn my two-part series on improving your listening skills, we are now at the point where I want to see you put these teachings into practice. For a job seeker, employee, or manager to remain aware and make difficult decisions with confidence, they must carefully listen to what is going on around them. Without strong listening skills, it becomes extremely difficult to gather information. Odds are that you will find yourself spending more time running circles around an issue than it is actually worth.

Below are the key points that I challenge all of you to remember and put into practice!

  • When you are interacting with others, use a ratio of 80% listening to 20% speaking. Encourage discussion and extract information by asking targeted questions. Questioning will help clarify underdeveloped ideas or shed light onto ones that have not been explored.
  • Enter into dialogue with your conversation partner with all assumptions and pre-conceived notions out in the open. This mutual understanding will encourage the exchange of ideas, as a level of respect will have been reached. It opens the door to more challenging questions and promotes the development of critically thought-out solutions.
  • Focus your conversations on what information you need to know, not what you think might be useful. The excess time used during your interactions may be taking away from an already-shortened timeline. Train yourself to minimize external distractions and refrain from digressing away from the task at hand.
  • Understand that ambiguity and uncertainty is an important tool. Not knowing what may occur in the future will help prepare you for unexpected curve balls thrown your way.
  • Process and put important information into mental file folders. Organized information can be more easily accessed and utilized in decision-making.
  • Identify relevant information from a conversation and work hard to
    remember it.
  • Listen and lead by example. Good listeners are considerate and knowledgeable of the decisions they are making. Be open to questioning and encourage others to challenge ideas.

To become a highly effective listener, you must test yourself and begin putting these processes to work for you. Through daily practices and focusing on one section of improving your listening skills, you will begin to view active listening as second nature.

Listen to the author that inspired this series, Bernard Ferrari:

Readers: Which above the above will you try out first? What point do you think will be the hardest for you to make part of your routine?

Learning to Listen Up!

Hi, Anita:

I am beginning to get extremely frustrated with my co-worker and need some advice. No matter how hard I try, she seems to be incapable of listening to any of my thoughts or suggestions. It is like the minute I start talking she puts in her figurative earplugs and tunes me out. Is it just me or something more?

Hi, Help with the Selectively Deaf:

listenerThanks for the question. Hearing what someone has to say is one thing, but actually listening to them is an entirely different matter. It is an accepted belief that actively listening to another person takes a certain degree of skill and upkeep. More often than not, people fail to maintain their listening skills and quickly fall into damaging and unproductive communication habits. I have been doing some research and recently picked up a great book on the subject called “Power Listening: The Most Powerful Business Skill of All” by Bernard Ferrari. In his book, he describes 6 different types of bad listeners:

  • The Opinionator: A person who listens to others’ ideas but only to see whether or not they conform to his or her own already-held beliefs and ideas.
  • The Grouch: A person who is absolutely certain that his or her colleagues do not have any valuable or valid ideas. All other input, except theirs, is wrong. They will express displeasure and disapproval for all opinions with a “You are full of it” response.
  • The Preambler: An individual who has carefully calculated scripts and lengthy lead-ins to box in his conversation partners to his pre-conceived ideas.
  • The Perseverator: A conversation partner that remains steady on their ideas and uses techniques to not advance discussion in hopes of keeping their opinions on top.
  • The Answer Man: A person who has immature listening skills and provides solutions to problems without listening to all of the facts.
  • The Pretender: An individual who is not interested in what his conversation partner has to say. These people enter into dialogues with their opinions and choose to not engage in the conversation. These people politely listen and pretend to be fully involved in a conversation when in reality they are simply off on another planet or putting on a show just for you.

These are the most common listener types, but you can bet that bad listeners come in every size, shape, form, and combination of the above. Remember: it is almost impossible to rid yourself of an ailment if you do not have a proper diagnosis. Try to identify what type of listener you are (or which one you’re talking to) and begin to break down the barriers of communication.

Readers: What types of listeners do you encounter in your day-to-day lives? Which one do you think is the most difficult to deal with?



Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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