You Have To Listen!

by Stephen Boyd | May 31, 2004

A major factor in not listening is that we have a choice! We can choose not to listen and to sit passively daydreaming or thinking about things other than what is being said. Thus a way to become better listeners is to put ourselves in communication situations where we have no choice but to listen. There are a variety of ways of doing that.

If you are attending a meeting, volunteer to take notes for the group. Or you can tell someone who will not be at the meeting that you will report back on the content of the meeting.  While at the meeting, think of two questions you will ask (even if you don’t get to ask them) and you will have to assimilate the information more carefully.

If you are in an audience listening to a speaker, sit front and center and you will have no choice but to pay attention. You are in the speaker’s line of vision and may even be a person to whom a question is directed because of your position. You will work harder not to succumb to sleep or daydreaming because of fear that the speaker may call on you or look directly at you for a response.

When your work area needs information from an outside vendor or customer, volunteer to make the call and then commit to report on what you learned. Not only will you have the information first hand, but you will have assimilated it well because you reported it to the entire department. In any conversation, build in a reporting system where you have to report on your conversation to a peer or supervisor.

Anytime time you receive directions, commit to yourself that you will always repeat them to the talker. Whether they are directions on how to get to a certain address, or how to implement a process, or what the customer wants you to do, repeat them before you end the conversation. A line you should have ready when receiving directions is, "What I hear you telling me is…." With this mental set you will pay close attention to the content of the message.

Because we are exposed to all kinds of stimuli, we often miss important information. Putting yourself, however, in physical or intellectual situations where you have no choice but to listen will help you ignore the unimportant minutiae and focus on the important and vital.

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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