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Becoming a Better Listener: Tips & Strategies

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  • 0:03 What Is Listening?
  • 0:44 Stages of Listening
  • 1:39 Listening Tips and Strategies
  • 3:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

Some people say listening is an art, but to be a good listener, it takes skill. There are strategies one can use to be a good listener. Some strategies include use of body language, asking the right questions and even empathy.

What Is Listening?

It's funny. We hear noises all the time. Horns honking, radios blaring and people chit-chatting at an outdoor café, but how much of that noise do we actually listen to?

Truth be told, not much. These noises are really just distractions. And those distractions can mean the difference when we are really trying to listen to information being sent to us.

We know that listening is making sense out of the words and sentences we hear. But how do we really know we are attending to the message with accuracy? Well, for one thing, we naturally follow four stages.

Stages of Listening

When a message is sent to us, we move through four stages in order to fully understand and retain what we heard, and it goes like this:

  • Attending
  • Interpreting
  • Responding
  • Remembering

In the attending stage, we are actually gathering the words and sentences in our brain to be used in the next stage. Think of the words and sentences as if they were floating in air. Not sure what you will do with each, you gather them in your head.

Then, you enter the interpreting stage. In this stage, you begin to make meaning of the words and sentences. In most cases, the responding stage will follow, and this is where you take the meaningful message and react to it by sending your own message or response, change your behavior or even make a non-verbal gesture.

Finally, remembering takes place, and this involves storing the information for use at a later time. That's all well and good, but being a good listener requires some finesse.

Listening Tips and Strategies

Body language involves non-verbal signals that we use to actually communicate with others and is one way to show the person we are having a conversation with that we are listening. Things like eye contact, leaning into the person and nodding in agreement are almost like words themselves. These gestures tell the other person that we are truly engaged in what is being said.

When we keep distractions to a minimum, we also let the other person know we are interested. Texting, checking email or even having music playing may distract you from the conversation.

Interrupting is the worst! Let the speaker complete his thoughts before interjecting an opinion. If you pause after the person speaks, you will be sure that you are not cutting him short. It will also give you a moment to re-group and decide the right thing to say.

It's always a good idea to ask lots of questions. Let's face it; people like to talk about themselves and what they know. Open-ended questions are the best. These questions require the other person to respond in detail rather than a simple yes or no answer.

Suffice it to say, the more questions you ask, the livelier the conversation will be. Your curiosity will tell the other person that you are listening. Finally, don't just use body language or words to send a message; reveal your sensitive side. This does not mean you should be an emotional basket case, bursting into tears and laughter at every word.

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