I often talk about communication on this blog, and how incredibly important it is to being a smarter worker.  Communication isn’t just how you speak though, it is how you listen.  The skill of listening can make or break the career of a worker, and a good listener is the difference between a low level employee and an employee on the management track.  From the interview process, to customer interaction, and even meetings with your co-workers, listening is the most important skill you will ever use in the workplace.  No degree, certification, or title is more important.

A good listener in the workplace is an incredibly valuable asset.  First let’s look at what can happen when you have an employee who doesn’t listen well.

Problems that occur when an employee has poor listening skills:

  • Poor customer relations
  • Time lost spent repeating things
  • Directions followed incorrectly
  • Slower responses due to poor communication
  • Frustrated co-workers
  • Morale suffers
  • Delayed Projects

These are just some of the possible outcomes of a bad listener.  I can tell you confidently that employees like this don’t go very far in a company, simply because they cause more work than they complete.  If you want to improve your listening try to follow these steps.

To Improve your Listening:

  • Make eye contact with the speaker – Keeping eye contact helps you focus on what the speaker is saying, and will help you stay attentive.
  • Ignore your phone/tablet – Turn off your phone and leave your tablet in your office when in a meeting.  It will only distract you from the information you are trying to absorb.  Even if you don’t answer or view it, a vibrate from a text will leave you wondering who it was or what they wanted.
  • Don’t have too much caffeine right before a meeting – Too much caffeine will leave you jittery and your mind racing.  I personally find it hard to keep my mind from trailing if I shotgun an energy drink right before a meeting.
  • Visualize what the speaker is saying – Try to picture what the speaker is saying, so that you can associate it to something in your mind.  This will help you recall the information later.
  • Share the emotions of the speaker – If the speaker is happy, smile, if they are sad, frown. Simply mocking their emotions will help you share in their story, and retain the information better.
  • Only ask questions during a pause – Let the speaker finish what they are saying before you ask a question.  They may answer your question, and you will listen closer if you are hoping for an answer.  This is also good manners.
  • Don’t interrupt – Interrupting will knock the speaker off track, and make it hard for both of you to remember what they are talking about.
  • Summarize – At the end of a meeting, summarize what was said and what needs further review.  This gives a chance to make sure you understood everything correctly, and for the speaker to add anything they left out.