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Listening is More than Simply Not Speaking

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listening is vital to communication

Listening is more than simply "not speaking." Give others your undivided attention.  Set aside your own judgments and preconceived notions. Listen with focus. Most importantly, listen to understand. 

Since we are entering into the swing of holiday parties and are all sure to engage in conversations with acquaintances new and old, I thought it was a wonderful time to refresh my recollection, as well as yours, on some active listening skills that we can employ in our professional and personal lives.

1. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact.

It is important to enter a conversation fully engaged and provide the speaker with your full attention.  

2. Tune in

Pay attention.  Don't be mentally preparing a rebuttal.  Don't let your mind wander. Screen out background noise and side conversations. Listen to verbal and non-verbal communications. Keep an open mind.  Jumping to conclusions or judgmental bemusements compromises your ability to effectively listen. Also, don't try to finish the speakers sentences, this implies that you are following your own train of thought rather than listening to what the speaker has to say.  A tip to help engage in the conversation is to "picture" what the speaker is saying.  Also, remembering key words and phrases will help you stay engaged.  And if your mind does start to wander, force yourself to refocus.

This may take practice but it is essential to fully listening to and hearing what the speaker is communicating. 

3. Show you are Listening and Provide Feedback

Provide verbal and non-verbal cues that you are listening, such as a nod of the head, a smile, or a yes and uh huh.  This lets the speaker know you are following along.  In appropriate pauses in the conversation, ask clarifying questions and reflect on what the speaker has said by paraphrasing.

4. Express Appropriate Emotion

Express empathy. Show that you understand where the speaker is coming from.

Active listening is a skill and like any skill through practice and repetition we can become better at it. So as we enter this holiday season, strive to listen fully to those around you.  Your family and friends will appreciate the effort.


About the author: Nichole Wilk is an associate at Jaburg Wilk PC. She works with banks and lending institutions assisting with both loan documentation and workout of troubled assets. She litigates commercial collection matters including workouts and deficiency actions and appears in bankruptcy and state courts.