What are strengths and weaknesses in listening habits, and what are some points in a plan for improving listening skills?

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Someone with good listening habits pays full attention to the speaker and asks follow-up questions to indicate that she is listening. In addition, the listener does not interrupt and resists the urge to finish the speaker's thoughts and to speak about what interests her. Someone with poor listening habits interrupts the speaker, does not make eye contact with the speaker, and seems distracted. A poor listener also resists listening if the subject is difficult for her or tries to change the subject. 

A plan to improve listening skills is to ask the speaker for feedback after your conversation. Ask the other person if you've followed these behaviors:

  • not interrupting
  • asking follow-up questions
  • speaking 25% of the time, listening 75% of the time
  • seeming engaged, not distracted
  • reflecting back to the speaker what he or she said
  • matching the tone of voice, volume of voice, and body stance of the speaker
  • letting the speaker finish his or her points

You can ask the speaker if you fulfilled these tenets of good listening and, if not, you can work on those skills in subsequent conversations and ask for continued feedback from the speaker.

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Listening is an incredibly useful skill in both business and personal relationships.  Here are some insightful indicators of strong listening skills from a rubric that I made for my students:

Listening Strengths include:

  • Listens attentively and respectfully to others' ideas, opinions, points of view
  • Asks insightful questions
  • Encourages speaker through appropriate use of posture and body language
  • can identify purpose for listening and appropriately adapt focus as needed
  • Can decipher context, tone, and point of view
  • Evaluates presentation strategies and persuasive devices
  • Compares and connects speaker's ideas to prior knowledge, insights, or other texts

Based on the above criteria, you could complete a self-evaluation and then base your plan on developing any weaker areas.  Strategies for improving listening skills could include removing distractions, taking notes, or sitting closer to the speaker.

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