Improve Listening Skills

I think that many of the problems in our world today can be traced to the fact that people don't see Listening as a skill.

When people speak they are simply “telling it like it is”. When they're listening, they think thy are simply hearing what is being said. The reality that both speaking and listening skills can be developed and enhanced is something that escapes most people's attention most of the time. Even people who should know better don't seem to realize that you can improve listening skills.

I have been leading a workshop in improving listening skills in the workplace for the last five years. In that time, I've seen a lot of things I wouldn't have expected. One of the most common complaints I get in my improve listening skills class is that the students already know how to listen. They feel that, because they can listen to a story and recount the basic facts, they have adequately developed listening skills.

That is why I usually start by pulling out a listening skills quiz. I tell them a story tinged with emotional details. On one level, it is the story of an accident, but on the other level details about the relationships between the protagonist and his friends and family. When I ask them about what actually happened, most of them have the details pretty solid. When I ask them more relationship oriented questions, however, many of them aren't able to get the correct answers.

This usually convinces them that they need to improve listening skills. There are plenty of different activities that I use, including teaching materials, games to improve listening skills, feedback sessions, and group work. I'm usually hired by fairly large businesses to help improve office communication, and I have achieved good results with this. One of the things that has surprised me most, however, is how many results I have achieved in other areas.

Many people come up to me months after I've taught their classes and tell me how I have helped their relationships. Most of them don't think about their improved listening skills as something important until they get out of the course and try them out. When they do, however, many of them are more effective communicators with spouses and other loved ones. Sometimes my courses enhance intimacy, other times they even save marriages. Although I haven't been trained in these particular areas, I like to be able to help people. Speaking effectively and listening effectively are invaluable communication tools.

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