Most people think they are much better at listening than they actually are. Attentive or active listening is not difficult to learn; however, it does involve practice and patience, to break bad listening habits which have been learned and reinforced over time.
Here are some questions which will help you assess your listening skills at present. Answer these questions honestly – you won’t improve unless you start by telling yourself the truth.
Answer each of the following statements honestly, thinking about your likely behaviour.
|Always or mostly||Sometimes||Rarely or never|
|1. I offer verbal signals while listening, things like, ‘Go on… ’ or ‘Uh huh’ to encourage the speaker to continue.|
|2. I am often thinking of something witty to say in response while listening.|
|3. I get bored with conversations easily - most people have nothing interesting to say.|
|4. I try to have the last word on a subject.|
|5. When communicating with others, I pay attention to non-verbal signals - body language, facial expressions and gestures.|
|6. I decide whether or not to listen based on the speaker’s appearance and how they talk.|
|7. I nod my head and use other gestures and facial expressions to show that I’m interested in what is being said.|
|8. When I have something to contribute to a conversation, I'll interrupt the speaker to make my point.|
|9. I sit and listen with my legs and arms folded in front of me.|
|10. I will interrupt the speaker if I disagree with a statement they have made. I finish people’s sentences for them, when they pause and I know what they are going to say.|
|11. I make eye contact with others while listening.|
Add up your score.
Congratulations! You have very good listening skills. It is likely that you learn from your conversations with other people and make them feel that what they say is important to you. Make sure you also know how to make your own views known. We all have things to learn from others, but you also have gifts to teach. Share your gifts!
Your listening skills are average. Congratulations – you’re normal! It is worth looking at the questions where you got low scores, to see where you could improve.
Your listening skills are likely holding you back from effective teamwork and rewarding personal relationships.
Active listening can definitely be learned with practice. Pick one thing to focus on – say, making appropriate eye contact. Let your trusted friends and associates know that you are making an effort to improve on that one thing, and ask them for their honest (and kind!) feedback. Focus on one thing at a time, until you get it.
Come to our workshop to learn more, and practice active listening, along with other essential elements of effective communication. You'll find that your work effectiveness, as well as your personal relationships, will improve as you practice.
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