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HOW TO BE A BETTER LISTENER
by Dr. Peter Honey
Listening is one of the key skills involved in the acquisition of knowledge
but unfortunately many people are bad listeners and this considerably
hampers their learning and development. Bad listeners are easy to spot.
- misinterpret what was said
- hear what they expect to hear rather than what was actually said
- look bored and uninterested
- talk nineteen to the dozen
- look impatient or distracted
- do other things while claiming to be listening
- think what to say next rather than listening to what is being said
- can't paraphrase or 'read back' accurately what someone else said
There are a number of ways you can use to force people to develop their
listening skills. The simplest is to impose spot checks by asking someone
without warning to paraphrase what has just been said. The threat of being
called upon to paraphrase concentrates the mind wonderfully. A more considerable
challenge is to give a poor listener the job of recording things on a
flip-chart or white board. Insisting on itemized responses is another
no-nonsense way of getting people to listen hard.
Perhaps the most ruthless way to improve listening skills is to play
the wallflower game. You can adapt this to suit your purposes and time
scales but typically you go through the following routine.
- Invite a bad listener to describe to a small group of colleagues a
current problem or concern he/she would like some advice on. Allow only
a maximum of five minutes to brief the group.
- Ban the bad listener from saying anything else for twenty to thirty
minutes while the group discusses his/her problem The bad listener has
to 'sit out' (like a wallflower at a dance) for the duration of the
discussion watching, listening and making notes without intervention.
The more the group drifts from what the bad listener perceives to be
the point, the better. The bad listener still has to sit there listening
to it all without being allowed to offer any clarifications or corrections.
- After twenty minutes or so invite the bad listener to paraphrase the
ideas he/she has noted without demure while the group members check
that all their ideas were heard.
- Bad listeners suffer agonies while playing wallflower because they
are committed to the topic under discussion and yet are condemned to
the role of silent note-taker. However you choose to go about it, providing
your people with opportunities to develop their listening skills is
an invaluable contribution to all their learning and development. Tempting
though it is, it is never safe to take listening for granted.
This article is taken from Peter Honey's best selling paperback now in
its fourth reprint, 101 Ways To Develop Your People, Without Really Trying!
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We will cover in detail one specific tip you can use immediately; one
from each of these 5 areas of Influencing:
- Wavelength: Recognize the signals people give to ensure full co-operation.
- Questioning: Gain a clear path to your goals by questioning more effectively
- Listening: Key in to what's actually being said, rather than what
you want to hear.
- Positive Conflict Resolution: Understand the reasons and feelings
beneath the surface of conflict.
- Agreement: Make co-operation a mutually rewarding experience worth
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