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Strategies for Being a Better Listener

When you use active listening skills, you not only hear what others have to say, but you also understand the message, tune into the speaker’s emotions, and have enough insight to provide feedback. Research suggests that managers spend 63 percent of the workday listening. Use these methods to make the most of that time.

Remove distractions. Glancing at your cell phone tells the speaker you’re not fully present.

Talk less. Educational nonprofit the Holdsworth Center suggests aiming to talk 10 to 20 percent of the time and listen 80 to 90 percent of the time.

Summarize the speaker’s points. Show you’re paying attention by paraphrasing key elements of the conversation. For example, “What I hear you saying is you feel you don’t have enough support.”

Ask questions. Increase your level of understanding with questions that gently probe deeper into what the speaker is trying to convey.

Be intentional with your body language. A smile or a nod may encourage the speaker to share even more.

Make use of tools. Explore podcasts such as Listening Skills (its tagline is “the most powerful way to connect with others”) by Lyn Lindbergh and apps like Listening Skills by MSPL Developers.

—Tamara E. Holmes

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