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Listen Up: Be An Intentional Listener

When I teach my Strengthening Effective Communication course live, I always ask the students to practice active listening between sessions and to report back about the experience. Inevitably someone who has practiced with a close friend or family member reports how they noticed the difference in their attention when really listening to them. I even had a wife who asked her husband if he was sick because she wasn’t used to seeing him put everything down and completely focus his attention on listening to her!

How would people react if you were more mindful about your active listening? Would they also be struck by the difference?

Next week our blog will give you some ideas of how to practice better listening. For today, let’s consider:

  • What you need to be listening for

  • Most importantly, what you might be missing out on by not being the best listener possible

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. ~ Epictetus

When Are We Listening?

Various studies have been done about listening and estimates show:

70-80% of our day is spent engaged in some form of communication, and about 55% of that time is devoted to listening.

When should you be listening throughout the day? Do you need to start your day actively listening?

Play out your day, when are the times where you should be listening with intention? Is it once you get to breakfast? You may need to be listening for what time people are coming home or what the plans are for that night. Or is it when you’re listening to the weather or traffic conditions before you head out the door?

What about when you get to work? Is there a change in your listening when you get to work? Do you immediately begin listening with intent or do you zone everything out until you actually sit in your office chair?

Based on most studies, you probably aren’t listening intentionally at work but should be. All interactions during the workday can possibly provide information that needs to be retained to be effective in your job. This could include meetings, calls, one-on-one discussions, etc.

If you were to go back into a conversation that you had with a coworker today, would you be able to remember what the conversation was about? Would you remember the specifics of the conversation?

You might be reading this while thinking, how can I remember that when I don’t even remember what I had for lunch yesterday? Well, the chances of someone asking you what you had for lunch yesterday are less than someone at work asking you about a specific work-related topic of conversation that happened not too long ago.

What Specifically Should We Be Listening For?

One of the students in my course commented that instead of calling it active listening, we should call it active receiving. I thought this was a really good idea since Merriam-Webster defines receiving as:

“to come into possession of.”

What do you need to come into possession of while you’re at work?

Just as you may be listening for the traffic report to know which route to take in the morning, what specifically do you need to be listening for at work? When we walk into a meeting and we know the topic being discussed, we can begin to prepare for what we need to be listening for. When we’re provided an agenda prior to a meeting it provides us an even better opportunity to know what to listen for. What about when you have a phone call or a one-on-one meeting? Do you usually have the time and information needed to understand what you need to listen for?

The solution? Be Intentional

The first step to improving our listening (or receiving) skills is to be intentional about it. Intentionally listening can help us be more successful in our work environment. How do we do this?

Many people that have sat down with Oprah have mentioned that one of the first things that Oprah asks when she walks into a meeting is “what is the intention of this meeting?” This not only helps to make sure both her and whoever is having the meeting are on the same page, but it opens up our ears to listen for what’s intended for the meeting.

So, take time – even if just a few minutes – to prepare what you intentionally need to be listening to receive during meetings, calls, or one-on-one interactions. By being intentional and preparing ahead of time for what you need to listen for, you’ve started to improve your ability to actively receive the information you need to be successful.


* Actionable Success Steps

Use these Actionable Success Steps to strengthen what you’re listening for during work.

  1. Commit to being intentional about your listening this week.

  2. Prepare for your next meeting by writing down what you need to be listening for during the meeting. It’s important to write it down and not just think about it! Use the agenda if one is provided.

  3. Prepare for one phone call or one-on-one interaction by writing down what you need to be listening for during the conversation.

Learn More

The Growth Group Academy currently provides instruction to strengthen your success skills. As a leader, you need to be able to communicate with others. Our Strengthening Effective Communication course is exactly the refresher you need to make sure your communication skills are on point and it’s also FREE using the code SUCCESS. Click here to sign up and learn more!

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