There is often a need to work in teams in business. Some barriers to good teamwork are: not knowing something about the people you work with, not feeling free to share with them things that you think and feel, or not asking questions when you don’t understand something. Listening skills are crucial to working well in a team!
Here are tips for being a good listener:
- Give your full attention to the person who is speaking. Don't look out the window or at what else is going on in the room.
- Make sure your mind is focused, too. It can be easy to let your mind wander if you think you know what the person is going to say next, but you might be wrong! If you feel your mind wandering, change the position of your body and try to concentrate on the speaker's words.
- Let the speaker finish before you begin to talk. Speakers appreciate having the chance to say everything they would like to say without being interrupted. When you interrupt, it looks like you aren't listening, even if you really are.
- Let yourself finish listening before you begin to speak! You can't really listen if you are busy thinking about what you want to say next.
- Listen for main ideas. The main ideas are the most important points the speaker wants to get across. They may be mentioned at the start or end of a talk and repeated a number of times. Pay special attention to statements that begin with phrases such as "My point is..." or "The thing to remember is..." Take notes in a notebook when you are in a meeting where important issues are being discussed.
- Ask questions. If you are not sure you understand what the speaker has said, just ask. It is a good idea to repeat in your own words what the speaker said so that you can be sure your understanding is correct. For example, you might say, "When you said that no two zebras are alike, did you mean that the stripes are different on each one?"
- Give feedback. Sit up straight and look directly at the speaker. Now and then, nod to show that you understand. At appropriate points you may also smile, frown, laugh, or be silent. These are all ways to let the speaker know that you are really listening. Remember, you listen with your face as well as your ears!
Have you ever really listened to someone? Why not try it – give someone your FULL attention today, without interrupting or turning the attention to yourself. Reflect on: How did it feel for you? What did you hear? How did it feel for the person you were listening to?