Listening Basics
By: Bob Belaire

"A good listener is not someone who has to be
checked every now and then by the speaker to
see if he is awake." 
- Judith Martin, also known as Miss Manners

Did you know that listening makes up more than 50 percent of our
time on the job and at home? Listening is our primary way of
assessing situations, identifying problems and finding solutions.
Effective listening skills help us become more productive, meet the
needs of others and get along better with our coworkers, friends and

How did you feel the last time your boss, coworker, friend or family
member showed interest in what you said? You probably felt
flattered. People feel they same way when they know you're listening
to them. When you show people you're listening, you acknowledge
their views and feelings. As a result, they'll feel good about you.

Wouldn't it be great if people at home and work
hung on our every word? Nice dream, but good
morning - it's time to wake up! More than 60
percent of all misunderstandings are the result of
ineffective listening skills, studies show. Poor
listening increases stress and friction, plus it
wastes time, effort and resources. And, let's face
it, our lives are tough enough, so the choice is up
to you. Improve your listening skills - improve your

There are three basic levels of listening: borderline, factual and active.
Everyone drifts among all three levels - sometimes in the same
conversation - depending on our skills, focus, distractions and
motivation to listen.

Borderline listening: We're probably otherwise engaged,
formulating a response or silently rejecting the other person's
views. We may get bits and pieces of the message, but we
often miss the main points and any implied meanings. 
Factual listening: We're like detectives who say, "Just the
facts, ma'am." We get all the details and the "little picture,"
but we may miss the big picture, the implied meanings and
the feelings behind the words. 
Active listening: We're restating the important details and the
main ideas. Messages are clearly communicated and both
people feel good about the exchange. 

Key Tips

Key Tip 1

Eliminate as many distractions as possible. Turn off your radio, hold
your telephone calls and put other work aside to show that you're
ready to listen to what people have to say. 

Key Tip 2 

Focus your total attention on the other person.
Don't think about what you're going to say next. If
you respond too soon, you're probably not
listening, and likely to miss the main ideas,
critical details and feelings.

Key Tip 3

Listen for the important details and the main points to help you
understand the big picture and the little picture. Also pay attention to
what isn't said. You may need to ask about those points later. 

Key Tip 4 

Restate in your own words the speaker's main points and some
important details to show that you were listening and that you
understood what was said. Ask questions for clarification or to
encourage the person to continue talking.