How to Become an Exceptional Listener

Dear Exceptional Listener,

I think I am a great listener, but I have noticed I cannot recall most of what my coworker said about our big project. I had a lot to contribute to the conversation and related her ideas to a positive experience I had on our last successful project. While my mind was focused on contributing to the discussion, I think I lost out on a few great ideas. How do I take control of my wandering mind and engage fully with my coworkers or supervisor?

Relater at Heart

Dear Relater,

You pose a fantastic question! It is a very common, natural listening practice to let the mind go at warp speed while only partially listening to a conversation. As humans we love to relate and jump into the conversation with our next thought; we don’t even notice we are doing it! Exceptional listening is all about the person speaking and being fully engaged. Practice these great do’s and don’ts to make exceptional listening your natural reaction.

  1. DO repeat the speaker’s words in your mind. This gives the brain a place to focus and opens the doors to exceptional listening. While doing this, think of ways to find out more information, without relating the information back to you; use listening as a learning experience.
  2. DON’T take your eyes off of the speaker. Our eyes wander, just like our brains, which takes away from exceptional listening.
  3. DO talk. When appropriate, ask the speaker the “information getting” questions you have been thinking about while they have been talking: step one.
  4. DON’T talk about yourself unless you are asked a direct question about yourself. When we stop ourselves from being able to talk about ourselves we automatically become better listeners because we are more focused on listening than focused on ourselves.

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