Listening: Improving the Most Used Communication Skill
October 24, 2017 by Bill Rosenthal

Think about your typical day at work. How much of it do you think is spent communicating in some way?

A recent study has found that many of us actually spend up to 80-percent of our day engaged in some form of communication. Of this time, we spend approximately, 9-percent of the day writing, 16-percent reading, 30-percent speaking, and a whopping 45-percent listening. Although listening is actually the most commonly used communication skill, it is also the skill that is most neglected or forgotten about.

Do you have bad listening habits? Here are just a few of the worst habits that you should be aware of: 

  • Labelling the subject as boring – Picture going to a meeting or a speech, seeing the topic, and immediately thinking about how dull the subject matter is. You have instantly dismissed the subject and have started to let your mind wander. In this case, a good listener might also think the subject is uninteresting, but will tune in to hear what the speaker has to say with the motivation that it may provide a new insight into the topic.
  • Faking attention – One of the most common bad listening habits, faking attention may mean that your eyes are on the speaker, but your mind is a thousand miles away. From engaging in a one-on-one conversation to listening to a presentation, it is important that you recognize when your mind begins to drift and realign your focus.
  • Listening only for facts – Many people simply listen only for the facts, which can then cause us to miss the primary idea that the speaker is trying to make.
  • Creating distractions – Bad listeners often (whether consciously or unconsciously) create distractions for themselves and those around them. Common distracting behaviors include rustling papers, fiddling with objects, or even whispering when listening to a speaker.

What can you do if you recognize these bad listening habits as your own behavior? Work on becoming an active listener. 

  • Focus on who you are talking to. – Active listening requires you to stop doing everything else and really listen. This may be difficult to do in a busy work environment, but put down your phone, log off of the computer, and clear you head of everything but the conversation at hand.
  • Remember to use and pay attention to body language. – Pay close attention to the nonverbal clues, gestures, expressions, and overall posture of the speaker.
  • Ask clarifying questions. – Asking relevant and clarifying questions helps demonstrate that you have been paying attention to what the speaker is saying and would like to know more.

Improving your communication skills and becoming an active listener may require more work on your part, but enhanced communication and listening skills will help you make meaningful contact with all of those around you.