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Are You REALLY Listening?

Being a good listener requires more than just keeping quiet while the other person is talking. Do you hear everything that is being said? Do you understand it completely?

Here are some tips on how to become a more effective listener:

FOCUS in on the basic message. Try to pinpoint the main ideas the person is expressing. Ask yourself what the speaker is trying to say. If you're not sure, ask. "Bill, I believe what I heard is-Am I on track?"

UNDERSTAND what is being said.

Keep asking yourself if you understand what is being said. If you don't, ask for clarification - and keep asking until you are sure you fully understand. "Bill, I'm not sure I understand how this relates to that, can you help me out?" What you don't understand, you can't recall. Additionally, if you don't understand what is being said, your mind is more likely to wander and your listening effectiveness diminishes.


Don't let trivial things like the speaker's appearance or random noises divert your attention from what he or she is saying. Listen to the speaker's whole sentence. Listen not only for content, but context. Anytime you catch yourself being distracted by something that draws your attention away from the speaker's words, make a conscious effort to focus back on the words.

Listen with your "GUT."

The speaker's tone and body language will impart meaning. These subtle clues are quickly picked up by the unconscious mind and leave us with a particular feeling about the speaker. When you are left with a "feeling" about someone after a conversation - that they are sincere, they are hiding something, they can't be trusted, etc. - it is a sign that your unconscious mind has put two and two together and come up with an evaluation.

Become PERSONALLY absorbed in what is being said. You can't listen effectively if you are only "going through the motions." Every subject has some interesting angle, some impact on you or something you can learn. In order to uncover those elements, you must first abandon your prejudiced or preconceived ideas. If you enter into a conversation with the notion that the other person has nothing of interest or importance to say, you will miss what is important.


To keep your active attention on what is being said, and offer comments. If the situation permits, offer your own perspective on what is being said. Ask a question or relate a relevant story that reinforces what the person is saying, or represents a different point of view. Ask yourself how what the person is saying relates to other situations or experiences.


There is more to listening than just passively hearing the words someone is speaking.

Source: The President's Club Report, March-April 1999, 1999, Sandler Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

Dan Hudock is an owner of the Sandler Sales Institute in Pittsburgh, PA. He can be reached at (724) 940-2388 or His web site is:

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