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Ten Steps To Better Listening


Talking is the least important half of any conversation. Listening is the real skill. Listening for what is being said, what is being omitted and what's being given a "spin."

You won't get what you need from any conversation unless you know how to listen correctly -- and know what to listen for. Questions, properly used, draw out what you need to hear. But they will be useless unless you listen closely enough to catch what people are telling you.

Here are some crucial guidelines for listening: what to listen for and how to make sure you don't miss it.

1. STAY IN THE MOMENT

Don't allow your attention to drift. Don't let your mind run ahead, preparing the next question or anticipating the flow of conversation. Stay right here. This is where the action is. Don't miss it.

2. DON'T FEAR PAUSES

Many people are afraid they'll look stupid if there's a pause while they consider what to say next, so they tune out part way through the answer to start preparing.

Listening to the answer is far more vital than having the next comment ready as soon as the other person draws breath. Thought is much faster than speech. It may feel as if minutes pass while you get your next question ready, but it will be a few seconds at most; a few seconds in which the person you're talking with will see you have truly listened.

Which will best encourage openness: being slick with the next question or showing you truly listened to the last answer?

3. LISTEN TO "WHAT," THEN "HOW" AND LASTLY "WHY"

Always listen in this order. Get the basic facts clear first (the "what"), then move on to see how they fit together (the "how"). Lastly, try to understand why -- the motives, thoughts and intentions behind the actions and behaviors.

Listening like this will show you right away where essential parts of the story are missing, so you can ask a question to draw them out.

4. WATCH FOR PATTERNS

Patterns are the most revealing elements in any person's story: patterns or action, patterns of choices, patterns of responses to others. Any specific action may be no more than chance. We all make bad choices and take wrong turns. None of that is specially important. But if there is a pattern of bad decisions -- or a pattern of good, courageous ones -- that suggests a recurring trait that will apply in the future as much as it has in the past.

I can't tell you how to do this. Some people seem almost incapable of noting patterns, even after you've pointed them out. It's all about spotting links between seemingly disconnected topics; the kind of links you get in a good mystery novel where the detective pieces all the clues together into an unanswerable proof of guilt.

What I can suggest is that you practice. Like all skills, practice will improve your performance. The more practice you have, the easier it will be, until you can do it in real time.

5. DON'T MAKE NOTES OBSESSIVELY

Taking notes is good practice, just so long as it doesn't interfere with the natural flow of the discussion. Don't allow long pauses while you break eye-contact to scribble on your pad.

The simplest suggestion is to note just a word or two and fill in the blanks immediately after the interview when the detail is still fresh in your mind. Don't assume you'll remember what "toes" meant when twenty-four hours have passed.

6. WATCH FOR EYE AND BODY MOVEMENTS

We communicate in many ways beyond words. But don't fall for pop-psychology interpretations of body language. Shifting in the seat may mean anxiety about some deception. But it may also mean the other person is too hot, too cold, or needs the bathroom.

There is never a simple, perfect "interpretation" of so-called body language. It's best to see it for what it is: a sign that something is going on that might demand your attention. Use it as a wake-up signal and you won't go wrong.

7. NEVER ARGUE OR GET EMOTIONAL

Whatever the other person says in a formal conversation, however much you disagree or loathe what's being said, never, never rise to the bait. Be respectful, without implying agreement or disagreement. Keep your attention alert and your mind open. You have a job to do, not a debate to win. Getting into an argument will interfere with your purpose.

8. LISTEN FOR TONE AND CHOICE OF WORDS

One of the least conscious parts of speaking is the tone we use: relaxed, tight, anxious, angry. Listening to the tone can alert you to meanings far beyond the literal interpretation of the words used.

Does the other person sound at ease? Tense? Uncertain? Angry? Sad? What might this suggest? Does it form a pattern?

Our choice of words can sometimes be a giveaway too. Especially if that choice results in using emotional or judgmental words. If I say a customer is "demanding," that's an objective outlook. If I use words like "awkward," "nasty," "deceitful," "dishonest," or "bloody-minded," I am being judgmental and revealing my emotions as well. Which tells you more about my attitude?

Just remember not to over-react to a single instance. Maybe that customer was dishonest. It happens. Look for patterns that suggest a fixed attitude.

9. REMEMBER YOU'RE HEARING A STORY

Listen for the ebb and flow; the big themes and central ideas. Ask yourself: "What's this story all about? How has it developed? Where's it going?" Don't concentrate on isolated facts. Look for the patterns and how they fit together to form the story of that person's life to date.

10. SMILE

Nothing is more disarming than a smile. Nothing better conveys interest and respect. With so much going on in your head -- asking questions, listening to the answers with rapt attention -- it's easy to come across as stuffy and miserable. Smile. Relax.

You have plenty of time and this person in front of you is really very interesting. Never hurry. Wait until you are sure the other person has said all there is to be said. Those silences while you wait to see if there's more to come are your most powerful technique. Most people cannot resist filling them -- often with all the things they knew they ought not to mention.

Smile. Relax. Wait. It will all come pouring out.

Adrian W. Savage writes for people who want help with the daily dilemmas they face at work. He has contributed more than 25 articles to leading British and American publications and has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Chicago Tribune.

Visit his blog on the ups and downs of business life.


Todays News by officejax free advertising and ad exchange solutionsMORE RESOURCES updated Wed. June / 03 / 2020
There’s No Home Remedy for Coronavirus Lies - The New York Times
There’s No Home Remedy for Coronavirus Lies  The New York Times

Science-backed home remedies you can rely upon - TheHealthSite
Science-backed home remedies you can rely upon  TheHealthSite

5 natural home remedies for insomnia that can help you get better sleep - Insider - INSIDER
5 natural home remedies for insomnia that can help you get better sleep - Insider  INSIDER

Many home remedies were good medicine — if you could survive the cure - The Mountaineer
Many home remedies were good medicine — if you could survive the cure  The Mountaineer

Question of the day: Can home remedies such as garlic, red pepper, saline, hot baths or alcohol protect a person from catching COVID-19? - Victoria Advocate
Question of the day: Can home remedies such as garlic, red pepper, saline, hot baths or alcohol protect a person from catching COVID-19?  Victoria Advocate

11 Home Remedies for Glowing Skin and Mistakes to Avoid - Greatist
11 Home Remedies for Glowing Skin and Mistakes to Avoid  Greatist

9 clinically proven natural remedies for common ailments - MD Linx
9 clinically proven natural remedies for common ailments  MD Linx

Home Remedies For Constipation: Know How To Use Dried Figs (Anjeer) For Better Digestion - NDTV
Home Remedies For Constipation: Know How To Use Dried Figs (Anjeer) For Better Digestion  NDTV

4 super-effective home remedies to treat a heat stroke - Times of India
4 super-effective home remedies to treat a heat stroke  Times of India

A renowned doctor in Gurugram is recommending spices as cure for Covid-19 – take it with a pinch of salt - Business Insider India
A renowned doctor in Gurugram is recommending spices as cure for Covid-19 – take it with a pinch of salt  Business Insider India

10 home remedies to treat dark circles - Times of India
10 home remedies to treat dark circles  Times of India

Does CBD help ease insomnia? - Seattle Times
Does CBD help ease insomnia?  Seattle Times

A Peek At This Beauty Expert's Favourite Home Remedies For Her Skin - NDTV Swirlster
A Peek At This Beauty Expert's Favourite Home Remedies For Her Skin  NDTV Swirlster

Flu Home Remedies: 7 Tried And Tested Tips For Quicker Recovery - NDTV Doctor
Flu Home Remedies: 7 Tried And Tested Tips For Quicker Recovery  NDTV Doctor

How to Clean Smelly Shoes - Home Remedies and Odor Eliminators for Stinky Shoes - GoodHousekeeping.com
How to Clean Smelly Shoes - Home Remedies and Odor Eliminators for Stinky Shoes  GoodHousekeeping.com

For a sore throat, these home remedies can help - Daily Monitor
For a sore throat, these home remedies can help  Daily Monitor

How to remove stubborn ear wax at home with natural remedies - Insider - INSIDER
How to remove stubborn ear wax at home with natural remedies - Insider  INSIDER

How To Get Rid of Wasps — Home Remedies for Wasp Removal - Country Living
How To Get Rid of Wasps — Home Remedies for Wasp Removal  Country Living

Adopt this home remedy to remove unwanted hair from children's body - News Track English
Adopt this home remedy to remove unwanted hair from children's body  News Track English

Home Remedies For Headache: These Essential Oils Might Help - NDTV Doctor
Home Remedies For Headache: These Essential Oils Might Help  NDTV Doctor

Home Remedies For Dry Hands: How To Get Soft, Smooth Hands At Home - NDTV Swirlster
Home Remedies For Dry Hands: How To Get Soft, Smooth Hands At Home  NDTV Swirlster

Say Goodbye to Cracked Heels - NDTV
Say Goodbye to Cracked Heels  NDTV

9 Tips For Long Hair And Home Remedies To Strengthen The Roots - NDTV Swirlster
9 Tips For Long Hair And Home Remedies To Strengthen The Roots  NDTV Swirlster

Paronychia Treatment at Home - Santa Clarita Valley Signal
Paronychia Treatment at Home  Santa Clarita Valley Signal

When Your Skin Breaks Out in Lockdown - The Wall Street Journal
When Your Skin Breaks Out in Lockdown  The Wall Street Journal

Home Remedies For Skin Care You Need To Try Now - Femina
Home Remedies For Skin Care You Need To Try Now  Femina

Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help Relieve Shingles Pain? - Healthline
Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help Relieve Shingles Pain?  Healthline

13 Beauty Home Remedies To Try From Around The World - iDiva.com
13 Beauty Home Remedies To Try From Around The World  iDiva.com

Haircare Tips: Solution to Your Frizzy Hair Lies in Your Kitchen - India.com
Haircare Tips: Solution to Your Frizzy Hair Lies in Your Kitchen  India.com

People’s Pharmacy: Statins raise a little-known risk factor for heart disease - The Spokesman-Review
People’s Pharmacy: Statins raise a little-known risk factor for heart disease  The Spokesman-Review

Briefly | News, Sports, Jobs - Jamestown Post Journal
Briefly | News, Sports, Jobs  Jamestown Post Journal

From Haldi Doodh To Amla Juice, 5 Desi Drinks For Immunity You Should Try - NDTV Food
From Haldi Doodh To Amla Juice, 5 Desi Drinks For Immunity You Should Try  NDTV Food

Govt to study home remedy effectiveness - Times of India
Govt to study home remedy effectiveness  Times of India

What is tear gas/what does tear gas do: EMS treatment of tear gas - EMS1.com
What is tear gas/what does tear gas do: EMS treatment of tear gas  EMS1.com

Improve Your Digestion At Home With These Kitchen Ingredients - NDTV Doctor
Improve Your Digestion At Home With These Kitchen Ingredients  NDTV Doctor

Struggling to poop? Home remedies to combat quarantine constipation - TheHealthSite
Struggling to poop? Home remedies to combat quarantine constipation  TheHealthSite

Ginger for colds: How to use ginger for a sore throat - Medical News Today
Ginger for colds: How to use ginger for a sore throat  Medical News Today

Simple Home Remedies To Care For Your Hands Right Now - Femina
Simple Home Remedies To Care For Your Hands Right Now  Femina

Home Remedies For Skin - kiss951.com
Home Remedies For Skin  kiss951.com

According To Experts: Here Are The Best Home Remedies For Every Type Of Skin - TheThings
According To Experts: Here Are The Best Home Remedies For Every Type Of Skin  TheThings

Go read this heartbreaking story of how coronavirus spreads - The Verge
Go read this heartbreaking story of how coronavirus spreads  The Verge

Wet Cough vs. Dry Cough in Kids: Causes, Symptoms, and Home Remedies - Yahoo Lifestyle
Wet Cough vs. Dry Cough in Kids: Causes, Symptoms, and Home Remedies  Yahoo Lifestyle

Home Remedies For Your Skin From Wrinkles To Burns - Femina
Home Remedies For Your Skin From Wrinkles To Burns  Femina

3 yoga asanas that can provide relief from constipation - Times of India
3 yoga asanas that can provide relief from constipation  Times of India

Mouth Ulcer Remedy At Home - Femina
Mouth Ulcer Remedy At Home  Femina

Skincare: 5 natural home remedies to combat oily skin - PINKVILLA
Skincare: 5 natural home remedies to combat oily skin  PINKVILLA

Did you know mango leaves have more nutrients than mangoes? - Times of India
Did you know mango leaves have more nutrients than mangoes?  Times of India

EastEnders star Tracy Ann Oberman shares pictures of nasty burn injury - Metro.co.uk
EastEnders star Tracy Ann Oberman shares pictures of nasty burn injury  Metro.co.uk

How to Get Rid Of Lice: Home Remedies, Prevention And Hair Care Treatments To Try - NDTV Swirlster
How to Get Rid Of Lice: Home Remedies, Prevention And Hair Care Treatments To Try  NDTV Swirlster

Try this homemade mask to tighten your skin - The Indian Express
Try this homemade mask to tighten your skin  The Indian Express

Skincare: A beginner's guide to DIY face masks and how the natural ingredients benefit the skin - PINKVILLA
Skincare: A beginner's guide to DIY face masks and how the natural ingredients benefit the skin  PINKVILLA

Hair Care: 3 easy and PROVEN home remedies for hair growth - PINKVILLA
Hair Care: 3 easy and PROVEN home remedies for hair growth  PINKVILLA

Foods to Soothe Sour Stomachs - WebMD
Foods to Soothe Sour Stomachs  WebMD

Can’t exercise? 7 diet tips to make your heart stronger during the lockdown - Times of India
Can’t exercise? 7 diet tips to make your heart stronger during the lockdown  Times of India

As temperatures rise, 5 remedies and ways to keep your skin safe from the sun - Times Now
As temperatures rise, 5 remedies and ways to keep your skin safe from the sun  Times Now

5 mistakes you should never make while treating a burn - Times of India
5 mistakes you should never make while treating a burn  Times of India

Kareena Kapoor Khan swears by THIS DIY home remedy and here’s how she uses it - PINKVILLA
Kareena Kapoor Khan swears by THIS DIY home remedy and here’s how she uses it  PINKVILLA

FALSE: Malunggay and kamias tea cure for COVID-19 - Rappler
FALSE: Malunggay and kamias tea cure for COVID-19  Rappler

When the stigma mutates faster than the virus - Oherald
When the stigma mutates faster than the virus  Oherald

Struggling With Dandruff? THIS Home Remedy Can Be The Simplest Trick & It’s NOT Curd! - Koimoi
Struggling With Dandruff? THIS Home Remedy Can Be The Simplest Trick & It’s NOT Curd!  Koimoi

The ultimate guide to tackling adult acne and summer breakouts - ELLE India
The ultimate guide to tackling adult acne and summer breakouts  ELLE India

Ecuador: Misinformation and coronavirus hand-in-hand in Ecuador outbreak - RTL Today
Ecuador: Misinformation and coronavirus hand-in-hand in Ecuador outbreak  RTL Today

Not feeling well? Here are some practical home remedies - Houston Chronicle
Not feeling well? Here are some practical home remedies  Houston Chronicle

Coronavirus home remedies: separating fact from fiction - FOX13 Memphis
Coronavirus home remedies: separating fact from fiction  FOX13 Memphis

Dangerous Home Remedies for COVID-19 - Everyday Health
Dangerous Home Remedies for COVID-19  Everyday Health

No, garlic won't prevent COVID-19. These 'home remedies' and 'cures' just don't work - NorthJersey.com
No, garlic won't prevent COVID-19. These 'home remedies' and 'cures' just don't work  NorthJersey.com

Try these natural pain relievers as quick home remedies - The Indian Express
Try these natural pain relievers as quick home remedies  The Indian Express

Did you know continuous use of gadgets harms skin? Here are some expert approved home remedies - PINKVILLA
Did you know continuous use of gadgets harms skin? Here are some expert approved home remedies  PINKVILLA

Myth-busting: Which of these DIY home remedies for coronavirus are actually effective? - KPRC Click2Houston
Myth-busting: Which of these DIY home remedies for coronavirus are actually effective?  KPRC Click2Houston

Coronavirus Fact Check: Do these 'home remedies' actually help? - NBC2 News
Coronavirus Fact Check: Do these 'home remedies' actually help?  NBC2 News

Diverticulitis: 8 home remedies and natural treatments - Medical News Today
Diverticulitis: 8 home remedies and natural treatments  Medical News Today

5 natural home remedies to get relief from flu - Times of India
5 natural home remedies to get relief from flu  Times of India

Chloroquine, home remedies are not the answer to treat coronavirus, experts say - Tribune-Review
Chloroquine, home remedies are not the answer to treat coronavirus, experts say  Tribune-Review

Do Any Bronchitis Home Remedies Actually Work? - Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic
Do Any Bronchitis Home Remedies Actually Work?  Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic

Do home remedies work to fight the flu? - Siouxland News
Do home remedies work to fight the flu?  Siouxland News

5 effective home remedies for vaginal itching - Times of India
5 effective home remedies for vaginal itching  Times of India

Psoriasis: 12 home remedies and how to avoid triggers - Medical News Today
Psoriasis: 12 home remedies and how to avoid triggers  Medical News Today

Home remedies can ease symptoms of cough, sore throat - Daily Herald
Home remedies can ease symptoms of cough, sore throat  Daily Herald

7 best home remedies to get rid of knee pain - Times of India
7 best home remedies to get rid of knee pain  Times of India

Jamaican Coronavirus Survivor Says 'Caribbean Home Remedies' Helped Him Beat COVID-19 - Black Enterprise
Jamaican Coronavirus Survivor Says 'Caribbean Home Remedies' Helped Him Beat COVID-19  Black Enterprise

Four home remedies to get rid of a toothache when you can't see a dentist - Insider - INSIDER
Four home remedies to get rid of a toothache when you can't see a dentist - Insider  INSIDER

Do Home Remedies Actually Work for Yeast Infections? - Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic
Do Home Remedies Actually Work for Yeast Infections?  Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic

Coronavirus Prevention: Make hand sanitizer at home using these three ingredients - Times of India
Coronavirus Prevention: Make hand sanitizer at home using these three ingredients  Times of India

6 home remedies for mosquito bites and itches - Times of India
6 home remedies for mosquito bites and itches  Times of India

10 natural and home remedies for ulcers - Medical News Today
10 natural and home remedies for ulcers  Medical News Today

Best Natural Remedies for Common Health Issues That Work - Prevention.com
Best Natural Remedies for Common Health Issues That Work  Prevention.com

Home remedies doctors swear by - Bangalore Mirror
Home remedies doctors swear by  Bangalore Mirror

Sore Throat Remedies That Actually Work - Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic
Sore Throat Remedies That Actually Work  Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic

Natural home remedies that can help you with kidney stones - Times of India
Natural home remedies that can help you with kidney stones  Times of India

3 Home Remedies for an Ear Infection - Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic
3 Home Remedies for an Ear Infection  Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic

Using home remedies to treat the common cold - kjrh.com
Using home remedies to treat the common cold  kjrh.com

Stuck at home during lockdown? Home remedies to cure minor illnesses - Times of India
Stuck at home during lockdown? Home remedies to cure minor illnesses  Times of India

5 easy natural remedies for relaxing your muscles - Times of India
5 easy natural remedies for relaxing your muscles  Times of India

5 home remedies to deal with the problem of low blood pressure - Times of India
5 home remedies to deal with the problem of low blood pressure  Times of India

Home remedies for cold feet and palms - Times of India
Home remedies for cold feet and palms  Times of India

@Home Remedies - HAPPI - happi.com
@Home Remedies - HAPPI  happi.com

Suffering From Cold? Try These Effective Home Remedies For Some Relief - NDTV News
Suffering From Cold? Try These Effective Home Remedies For Some Relief  NDTV News

5 natural remedies to get rid of tooth and gum pain - Times of India
5 natural remedies to get rid of tooth and gum pain  Times of India

Chronic cough? Count on these simple home remedies for immediate relief - The Indian Express
Chronic cough? Count on these simple home remedies for immediate relief  The Indian Express

Herbal Remedies and COVID-19: What to Know - Healthline
Herbal Remedies and COVID-19: What to Know  Healthline

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