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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Listening

There was an old owl that lived in an oak,
The more he heard, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard,
O, if men were all like that wise bird!

PUNCH MAGAZINE, LXVIII, 155 [1875]

Why do people have two ears and one mouth? It's probably because we are meant to listen twice as much as we talk. Or is it because listening is so much more difficult than talking? Listening shows that you care, that you have empathy and are prepared to be influenced. It also allows you to understand where the person you are communicating with is coming from. Here are the golden rules of listening:

  1. Give the other person your undivided attention. Don't do other work or take calls while you are listening.

  2. Talk less or don't talk at all. This will force the other person to speak.

  3. Find a quiet place to listen. Avoid places that are noisy or have other distractions.

  4. Listen to be influenced. Concentrate. Don't allow your mind to be absorbed with developing rebuttals.

  5. Let people finish their points. Only when they keep repeating the same point should you interrupt and indicate your understanding.

  6. Show that you are interested. Do this by nodding or periodically saying yes and leaning forward.

  7. Maintain eye contact without staring.

  8. Show positive body language. Lean forward. Look interested. Face the person who is talking to you. Smile occasionally.

  9. Ask for clarification if you are not sure you have clearly understood a message. Or summarize your understanding by saying, "So what I hear you saying is —. Is that right?"

  10. Ask open-ended questions. Such questions help get at what people feel rather than eliciting responses you want to hear.

  11. Be empathetic. Even if you disagree with another's views and sentiments, you are learning; try to see things from her perspective.

  12. Be patient. Some people take a little more time to articulate their thoughts. Wait until they have completed their points of view before responding.

  13. Watch for non-verbal reactions during the conversation. Most of what people think doesn't come out of their mouths. Observe their facial expressions, posture, gestures, and eye movements to evaluate what they are thinking.

  14. Keep pace with the speaker. Don't jump to conclusions or fill in the gaps.

  15. Allow people to finish their own sentences. Don't assume you know what they're going to say.

  16. Let others finish before you confirm your understanding. Train yourself to count slowly to five before interjecting or responding.

  17. Learn to let short, comfortable silences descend on a conversation. Silence encourages the other person to fill the void.


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