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5 tips to become a better listener5 tips to become a better listener

Communication is often touted as being the key to success, but never is that statement truer than when it’s your own business you’re commanding. Running a flight school requires us to share an exchange of ideas with a wide variety of individuals, often shifting gears from moment to moment, depending on whom it is we’re dealing with.
The art of communication offers a path to great success in life and in business, but surprisingly, as a learned skill it is rarely taught. Superior skills in this area are often the delineating factor between those who just survive in business and those who thrive. Look at public figures that have made successful careers out of their communication skills, such as politicians, infomercial gurus, and individuals like Donald Trump, Barbara Walters, and Oprah Winfrey.
We’ve all heard the old saying, “We were given two ears but only one mouth, because listening is twice as hard as talking,” yet when asked about the most effective way to communicate, most people respond with various ideas about what to say and how to say it. According to the International Listening Association, (yes, there is a listening association) more than 35 business studies indicate that listening beats out talking as a top skill needed for success in business, and their statistics support the science behind the fact.

  • Most of us are distracted, preoccupied or forgetful about 75 percent of the time we should be listening.
  • We listen at 125 to 250 words per minute, but think at 1,000 to 3,000 words per minute.
  • Immediately after we listen to someone, we only recall about 50 percent of what they said.
  • Long-term, we only remember 20 percent of what we hear.

Whether dealing with employees, bankers, clients, mechanics, suppliers or FAA inspectors, use these five tips to help you improve your listening skills and become a better leader in business:

  • Listen to learn—Effective listening doesn’t mean just hearing someone’s words. Your attitude needs to convey that you understand, or are trying to understand the other person’s point of view. Your conversation shouldn’t be like a tennis match where you volley back and forth, creating an adversarial environment wherein you’re each trying to score a point. Instead, effective listening is more like baseball, where the pitcher (speaker) throws the ball for the catcher (you) to receive it. Still on the same team and working together, you’ll only return the ball to the pitcher once you have a firm hold on it. In other words, listen to receive the meaning, but only respond once you understand.
  • Be quiet—This is the best way to not only hear the words, but the meaning behind their words. Observe body language, gestures, postures, and tone of the speaker while listening to what they are saying. Remember that when your mouth is open, your ears are closed.
  • Practice active listening—It’s the most effective method because it makes the speaker feel as if you are truly listening to everything about their message. According to Taft University, you should follow the “Soler” method for attentive listening.

    Squarely face the person
    Open your posture
    Lean towards the sender
    Eye contact maintained
    Relax while attending

  • Ask questions to ensure you understand—According to Harvard Law School, a skillful negotiator will orchestrate questions into his or her active listening to draw out the other party’s concerns and feelings, with an eye toward asserting his own viewpoint and engaging in joint problem-solving. Just because you heard the words and observed the body language, don’t assume that you understand the meaning. If a particular point is unclear to you, ask a question to clarify it before you respond.
  • Let the speaker finish his or her thoughts—Even though it’s hard to remain silent, don’t interrupt with words or actions. Many misunderstandings have come about from interruptions. If you are working on other things, such as e-mail or paperwork, they won’t feel they were heard.

Good leaders are good listeners. Effective listening helps to resolve conflicts, build trust, inspire, and strengthen teams. It often requires you to bite your tongue, but the results are worth the effort.

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