How can we improve our listening skills?

27 July 2015 - 9:10am

There is a never ending plethora of sounds coming from an infinite selection of sources including; aeroplanes, loud background music and even people slurping hot tea! So it is a surprise that we are able to receive and assimilate conversational content at all. From a business perspective, the ability to listen well can be linked to productivity and sales, the question therefore is how can we improve our listening skills?

FACT: We spend 60% of our communication time listening.

FACT: We retain only 25% of what we hear.

FACT: That's not a good path for us to be headed down.

Julian Treasure a sound and communication expert says listening is “making meaning from sound” and is a “mental extraction”.

We use different tools to listen;

  • Pattern recognition – when we hear something specific in a loud room, e.g. our name
  • Differencing – discount sounds that remain the same, e.g. monotonous voices
  • Unconscious filters – cultural & social, e.g. accents
  • Space – with our eyes shut we can work out the size of the room we are in

The Art of Conversation is being replaced by sound-bites through text and social media however conscious listening creates understanding.

5 exercises to improve listening

  1. Silence - 3 minutes a day will reset and recalibrate your ears
  2. The Mixer – practice how many channels you can hear in different surroundings
  3. Savoring – enjoying mundane sounds, i.e. tumble dryer
  4. Listening Positions – active / passive, reductive / expansive, critical / empathetic
  5. RASA – Receive / Appreciate / Summarise / Ask

Words can and do get lost in translation.

Better listening will make the difference between a client being able to identify a superstar or a candidate being able to respond effectively to secure their dream job.


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