Far too many of us talk a lot but listen very little. That probably means that we aren’t hearing all of the information that people are trying to provide to us, and it might mean that we are actually missing quite a lot. Active listening can help us to both hear, and learn more. It doesn’t mean that we can’t speak, but almost all can profit from listening to what others, especially our work colleagues, are trying to communicate to us.
The fact is that listening is one of the most important and under-rated skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others. We listen to music for pleasure, but we also listen to get information and to understand. We listen to learn, and while many of us think that learning stops when we leave school, the reality is that this is a life-long process, and the smart ones have figured that out.
Some studies have suggested that we only take in and remember between 25 and 50 percent of the information that we hear every day. That means that we lose up to 75 percent of what is presented to us. While some of that lost information might be trivial or unimportant, at work, this could be costing you and your company time, money, or both.
If you weren’t listening at the sales meeting when they announced the featured items for the month, you cannot pass this information (which you didn’t hear) on to your clients; you will not garner the extra sales, and you might not make your sales targets or get your bonus at the end of the month. Once again everyone involved is not happy with the situation – especially, you.
The elements of better listening are simple and include:
This has to with the physical aspect of listening. In active listening, you begin by facing the person who is talking, opening yourself and your posture to listen. You should also lean towards the speaker while maintaining eye contact. Most importantly, consider relaxing your body – particularly your shoulders – to show the other person that you are ready to listen and receive the information he or she is beginning to provide.
This is a technique that allows you to focus in on what the other person is saying and to show him or her that you are paying attention. You can do this by repeating in your own words what you think the speaker has just said. This is not about agreeing or disagreeing with the individual, it is simply re-stating what you have heard, demonstrating to the speaker that you were listening.
In order to be sure that you are picking up the right information it is often useful to ask questions of the other person. This can help to clarify what he or she said, or to try and understand the feelings contained in what the other person is saying. This element can help add another layer of understanding to the basic facts or information being shared.
Good listeners will often use their own words to summarize what the other person is saying, and clarify perceptions of what he or she is trying to get across. This might also be particularly useful when you are listening to a lengthy or complex presentation.
This is just trying to show the person that you understand and can relate to his or her experience. Empathizing is helpful when dealing with personal issues – even at work- colleagues bring their personal lives with them to work more than they may realize. It can allow you to separate out the feelings from the information and often will let the other person share valuable insights that can assist you in your work.
Becoming a better listener at work can help to improve your productivity as well as your ability to influence, persuade and, negotiate. Improving your listening can lead you to even greater workplace success.
Mike Martin is a writer and the author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People.
You can buy Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People from the publisher in print or e-book:
or from Amazon.com
Also check out my fiction writing at
You can follow Sgt. Windflower on Facebook at