Magazine article Supervisory Management

Doing Something about Your Listening Ability

Magazine article Supervisory Management

Doing Something about Your Listening Ability

Article excerpt

Doing Something About Your Listening Ability Regardless of the type of function or department being managed, the manager's greatest communication need is to listen effectively. But experts say that of all the basic communication skills we posses--reading, writing, speaking, listening--we are at our worst when practicing the skill of listening. We're so poor at listening that, under normal circumstances, we listen with only about 25 percent efficiency. That is, we don't really grasp about three-fourths of what people say to us and, therefore, are about one-fourth as good at listening as we could be.

That's a sad state for managers to find themselves in, particularly since something can be done about it. For too long--actually well into the 1950s--little attention was paid to listening problems. Many people felt that they were naturally good listeners because they spent so much time listening. But study and research in the last three decades have shown clearly that we are indeed poor listeners and that we can do something about it.

How about you?

The first step in doing something about your listening ability is the same step you'd take in tackling any other deficiency: Become aware that you don't listen as well as you could. If you've ever admitted to yourself that you may need to attend a seminar on listening or read a good book on the subject, you are aware that you may have a problem. You've taken that first step already. But if you haven't done either of those things but have taken the initiative to read this article, you are now taking the first step. Becoming aware that you may need to improve your listening ability isn't always as easy as it sounds at first. Remember, many people just assume that they are naturally good listeners; that can be hard to know because who, for example, is going to tell you that you're a lousy listener, especially if you're the boss. Most often, you simply have to search for signs that you aren`t receiving all or part of what is said to you; and learning to search for clues requires a significant degree of awareness that many managers haven't yet developed. It's a "Catch 22" situation, and our managerial effectiveness suffers as a result.

Once you become aware of possible problems, though, a great deal of help is available. Very good instruction on developing listening skills is available today from many sources and in many forms. This instruction generally involves self-examination to see where you need improvement, along with a package of suggestions for practicing listening skills effectively. Four of the most important and far-reaching suggestions follow. By following these points, you can improve your listening ability 50 to 100 percent in a short time. Just think what a whopping return on investment that really is! Upgrade your desire to listen

"I want to listen," managers say. "That's how I find out what's going on and what's on the employees' minds." Yet the truth is that the desire many people have is not to listen but to talk while others listen. To check to see whether this is a problem for you, watch yourself the next time you're in conversation at work with one of your subordinates. Ask him or her a question and see if you wait for and listen attentively to an answer without interrupting with another question or some argument of your own. If you do, that's a good sign.

But even if you pass the interruption test, there's more. You still need to check to see whether you dominate conversations, giving people you talk with little chance to speak. In a normal conversation, If you talk more than half the time, something's wrong. You may be dominating the discussion, perhaps largely because you just like to talk better than you like to listen. Remember that good management does not require that managers talk more; rather, it requires that they listen more.

How can you upgrade your desire to listen? …

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