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Ask most people if they’re a good listener and they’ll say, ‘of course!’ But in reality, very few of us are actually good at listening effectively.

A study of over 8,000 employees from various job backgrounds found that almost all participants believed that they communicated as effectively or more effectively than their co-workers.

In reality, the average person listens at only about 25% efficiency!

While most people agree that listening is a very important skill, a majority don’t feel a strong need to improve that skill.

This is probably because effective listening isn’t something we really talk about, which is strange, because we’re social creatures who thrive on communication, and listening is arguably the most important aspect of effective communication!

A study of managers and employees in a high-stress hospital setting found that listening explained 40% of the variance in effective leadership.

Think of someone you believe to be an effective leader in your life –be it a teacher, a politician, a boss, or even a parent –would you consider them to be a good listener?

As a leader, working on your listening skills will help foster bonds and trust between yourself and subordinates.

Being a good listener will also help demonstrate the concern you have for their wellbeing, which will make them more committed to you and the work that they do to you.

Effective listening tends to reduce the frequency of interpersonal conflict because it’s more likely that the dispute can be resolved by coming to a ‘winwin’ situation.

Think about it, when you feel as though no one is listening to your side of the story, you’ll be more likely to be on the defense and become more passionate about your point.

On the other hand, if you feel as though your concerns are being taken into account, you’ll probably be more likely to agree to a compromise and try to work toward a middle ground.

Effective listening is actively absorbing information, while showing the speaker that you’re listening and engaged, then providing feedback that shows them that they’ve been heard.

In other words, effective listeners show speakers that they have been heard and understood.

Like I mentioned before, humans are social creatures who thrive on relationships. This means that one of the BEST things you can do for another person is to show them that their communication is working and that their message is being delivered effectively.

Now think of a time that you’ve sat down with someone and discussed your thoughts in a way that almost left you with a sense of relief when you walked away.

Your body language is an extremely important component of listening –some research suggests that it’s more important than the words you speak!

When you’re having a conversation with someone, face the speaker and maintain eye contact. This shows them that they have your undivided attention.

Talking to someone while they’re looking around the room, checking their watch, studying a computer screen, gazing out the window, or looking at their phone makes you feel as though you’re not being heard.

While you might be thinking that your multitasking skills are good enough to hold a conversation while simultaneously doing something else, there’s no doubt that making a habit of this will create some tension between you and your conversing partners.

Effective listening means listening without judging the other person or mentally criticizing the things they tell you.

Remember, you’re not listening to respond, you’re listening to learn something new.

So don’t jump to conclusions about the things they say, instead –ask questions.

When you’re listening to someone talk about a problem, refrain from suggesting solutions.

This is difficult for many people to do!

We all want to help, and when the answer seems clear to you, you want to share it – but most of the time, people just want to share their thoughts!

The best journalists, interviewers, and researchers learn the importance of probing early on.

Probing just means asking for additional information, but it can help you understand the situation more fully.

Effective probing comes from a non-judgmental place and follows the flow of what’s been previously said. Additionally, probing really shows the person you’re speaking with that you’re paying attention to detail and are fully invested in what they’re saying.

Keep in mind that your goal as a listener is to try and develop a deeper bond. If your goal is to better connect with someone, then you should be making an effort to work WITH them, instead of telling them what to do.

As an active listener, your ultimate goal is to get as much information as possible in a time-efficient manner and leave the conversation on better terms.

Let me know what you think.

Desi Tahiraj Consulting.Inc.