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I believe that I am a poor listener. Often after meetings, I find myself having a lot of loose ends, but in the situation I am not enough aware of this to be able to ask a specific question. I am simply not on top of things. This also means that I am having a hard time taking notes during the meeting. I have made it successfully through school and various universities, but I was always better at gaining knowledge through other means that listening.

How can I get better at listening?

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Soners answer is good. You just have to do it and then you will get better. If you find yourself not listening just try to refocus again. Do not be afraid to ask some questions. There are no stupid questions only stupid answers. –  hellectronic Nov 10 '11 at 8:37
    
I have been practicing since my birth, so maybe I should do something differently. I like your comment about stupid questions. –  David Nov 10 '11 at 12:03

9 Answers 9

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I read a tip last week, possibly on reddit actually, that a suggestion is to listen to the speaker with the 'intention' that when they finish, you're going to have to explain it back to them. I found this kinda amusing, having just started at a new role and having lots of information go 'woosh' over my head.

So I gave it a try. And my goodness does it work. It doesn't take much, but just the pretense that I'm going to explain it again after them suddenly seems to focus my attention and processing.

Might not work for everyone, but it's working for me.

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What a great approach to active listening! I am going to try this out. –  Gaʀʀʏ Apr 8 at 19:17

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This is a most common known Think-Feel-Do triangle about working, living their life etc.. In the same way, it works with about listening.

  1. What you think about listening.

  2. What you feel about listening.

  3. What you do about listening.

For this three topic, analyze this page http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/kline-listen/b10ch5.htm

Listening is a gift. It helps build relationships, solve problems, ensure understanding, resolve conflicts. At work, effective listening means fewer errors and less wasted time. At home, it helps develop resourceful, self-reliant kids who can solve their own problems.

  • Make an eye contact and listen face to face.

When I listen somebody, I try to turn my face to him/her and always make an eye contact. With this, I always get more concentration and focus when I listen to. And If you can, try to listen and response to him/her with your jest.

  • Be careful about your comfort

Usually, most of people can't listen very well when they have more relaxed. They feel lazy and can't concentrate perfectly and can't focus on the listener. For example, when you listening, if you sit on very comfortable chair, sometimes you should straighten your body. Person's listening skills falls with very comfortable environments.

  • Words to İmages

I always love it. When I listen somebody, at the same time, I try to convert some words to pictures in my mind. For all that, I get more intelligibility and be remembered. Pictures are more stable than words.

  • Feel like speaker.

Sometimes, feeling yourself like who are listening, is the best tip for being a better listener.

  • Giving feedbacks.

If you give regular feedbacks to speaker, you can get more healthy understanding environment. Remind them, you are still there. And If you listen long speech, focus and remember on keywords and issues. If you listen difficult people, spend more time listening, not speaking.

--Listening Quiz--

I found this quiz on the internet, maybe you can try on yourself and see how you are good about listening. Answers are on the bottom of the questions!

  1. During the past two weeks, can you recall an incident where you thought I was not listening to you?

  2. When you are talking to me, do you feel relaxed at least 90 percent of the time?

  3. When you are talking to me, do I maintain eye contact with you most of the time?

  4. Do I get defensive when you tell me things with which I disagree?

  5. When talking to me, do I often ask questions to clarify what you are saying?

  6. In a conversation, do I sometimes overreact to information?

  7. Do I ever jump in and finish what you are saying?

  8. Do I often change my opinion after talking something over with you?

  9. When you are trying to communicate something to me, do I often do too much of the talking?

  10. When you are talking to me, do I often play with a pen, pencil, my keys, or something else on my desk?

The answers most often given for effective listeners are: 1. no, 2. yes, 3. yes, 4. no, 5. yes, 6. no, 7. no, 8. yes, 9. no, 10. no.

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Curious thing, I can listen more concentrated when not having eye contact. –  BlueM May 5 at 13:32

Be less selfish.

Shut your inside voice while someone else is speaking. When someone is speaking, stop thinking about YOU.

Even when someone nags or whatever, listen to them. Listening to someone isn't necessarily agreeing with them. Don't give advise unless you are explicitly being asked for it.

Btw, feel free to tune out when necessary (i.e. gossip, office politics, etc.). There is certain information not worth retaining.

Start simply: "How are you?" mean it and SHUT UP. You'll be surprised how much people really want to talk when you ask them about their interest.

Just like anything it takes time and practice. You will fall very often. Don't be discourage, just do it again and again.

Bonus: I notice that listening to someone you don't like very much helps a bit more.

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I once heard a suggestion for quieting your inner voice. Have two papers (or draw a line down the center of your note paper) in meetings. On one sheet, take meeting notes. On the other, write down To Do items or whatever else pops in your mind. By writing it down on a To Do list, it helps clear those things out of your mind, letting you pay attention better. –  Jeff Apr 2 '12 at 18:27

Here's a few different ideas for you to consider:

  1. Julian Treasure: 5 ways to listen better has some ideas that may be of interest when it comes to improving how you listen.

  2. Consider doing a contrast between reading a book and hearing an audio version of the same book. Are there vocal cues that add more to the story then just the words? Does the volume, speed, accent, or tone play a role in how you view this material?

  3. Possibly contrast how well you listen in a few different settings. How different is your listening face to face compared to over the phone? Does it make a difference if there is more than one person present and so you aren't able to focus completely on just one person? This is where you'd either have to record the meeting or have some friends that can handle both having the conversation and taking notes to give feedback to help you develop the skills.

  4. How to Win Friends and Influence People's suggestions may also be useful though while not about listening they may be useful in helping build relationships and get better at communicating:

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  1. Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six Ways to Make People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person's interest.
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  2. Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say "You're Wrong."
  3. If you're wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes.
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.
  9. Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.
  10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
  11. Dramatize your ideas.
  12. Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

  1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  2. Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly.
  3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  5. Let the other person save face.
  6. Praise every improvement.
  7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
  8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
  9. Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.

Last but not least consider that you may just be taking in lots of other information that colors how you listen which may be a useful skill in some situations. Emotional intelligence would be another area that may be of some help as all the aspects of it deal with listening in one way or another, the self-awareness of knowing what is around you, the self-management of absorbing information and not getting distracted, social awareness to understand how this is could be taken and relationship management as some people may use various literary devices for effect such as alliteration or onomatopoeia.

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You could always try the http://www.lumosity.com/ application. It helps me with attention and memory, which could help you too.

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Just Listen is a great book on this topic.

Try this: spend some time with a friend or family member and try not to say anything unless it ends in a genuine question about them, their life, or their relationships.

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One technique I find useful is called active listening. It is probably mentioned in some of the excellent resources others have mentioned, but I find it particularly useful to me.

In active listening, you reflect back to the speaker what they are saying, using your own words. If someone says, "The purpose of this project is to produce a new furblesnotzer for the dingwit team to use," you might say, "I'm hearing that the dingwit team needs a new furblesnotzer -- is that a fair summary?"

That's a simplification, and this particular technique probably won't work well in meetings, but if you practice it in one-on-one communication, I think it is still helpful to sharpen your listening skills. You may find yourself doing these reflections on what others are saying inside your own head at meetings -- which is good.

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W_A_I_T

Why Am I Talking

When you find yourself doing all the talking, W A I T and then you'll remember to LISTEN to the other person.

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I've also made an effort in the last few years to improve and maintain my focus on the speaker in classes and work meetings. To deal with distracting and unrelated thoughts ("I need to buy milk", "I wonder if my order has shipped yet", "Oh, the site would be much better if we changed the color of those buttons"), I stole a simple technique from GTD and started keeping a stack of index cards handy, in addition to the pad I use for meetings notes.

Any time a distracting thought pops up, it gets jotted on the top card, which is then flipped over to the bottom of the stack. It usually doesn't even need to be the whole thought, just a trigger for it ("milk", "order shipped?", "blue buttons"). With practice, it has becomes semi-automatic. I can now do this even when I'm the speaker, without causing a noticable pause.

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