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The importance of active listening

Couple in Love
Couple in Love
Flickr/Pedro Riberio Simoes/

Listening is an art form. To some people it comes naturally. To others, it is something that must be cultivated. Being a good listener is very important in both your personal life as well as your professional life. It can open doors that might otherwise remain closed. It can be a healing force in relationships that are broken.

Here are some tips on how to be a good listener:

1) Do not monopolize conversations. After all, the world does not revolve around you, and as much as you may enjoy talking about yourself, it is important to give other people a chance to talk as well. It is impossible to listen and talk at the same time.

When you talk too much, something happens to the listener. The person listening soon learns to just tune you out to the point that all they hear is a distant hum. When you speak, make sure you have something important to say.

2) Effective listening involves more than just hearing the words someone else is speaking. It means actually taking those words in and processing them...trying to realize the meaning behind the words.

Jim missed out on an important career opportunity because he was hearing what his boss was saying, but he was not actively listening. Jim's boss mentioned in a couple of conversations to Jim that he was seeking someone to volunteer to head up a special project for the company. Jim heard the words, but his mind was on his upcoming golf game. He smiled and nodded as his boss was talking, but never volunteered to head up the project that would have been perfect for him. His lack of effective listening cost him a promotion and a $5000/year raise.

On the other hand, the person who did get the promotion had just happened to overhear her boss talking to Jim. When she noticed that Jim did not show an interest in the project, she was quick to do just that. She approached her boss, expressed an interest and got the job.

Jim never even remembered his boss mentioning the project to him.

3) Take an active interest in your surroundings. When you do this, you will automatically become more aware of people and actually WANT to listen to what they have to say. This will draw more people to you because they will want to be around you. Why? Because everybody wants to be around someone who is a good listener.

Effective listening = better communication = more opportunities.

Effective listening will also improve your personal relationships. Listening to someone demonstrates respect, care and concern.

A spouse who is well listened to by his or her partner will not only feel respected, but will also feel validated. Active listening shows that you value your spouse enough to listen to what is being said.

On the other hand, nothing will shut down intimacy and communication in a relationship faster than ineffective listening. When you do not listen to your significant other, it is like telling the person he or she does not matter to you. Eventually your spouse will stop talking to you at all.

Ineffective listening = loss of communication = less opportunities.

Whether you are a good listener or someone who needs to cultivate the skill, it is never too late to heighten your awareness and work on improving your listening skills.

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