Published - August 1997

By Dave Jakielo


Wow, isn't it amazing how rapidly modes of communication are changing in our fast paced world. Many of us now have email, voice mail, pagers, cellular phones, to name a few of the modern communication tools. However, even with all of these ingenious inventions we still find miscommunication rampant.

In this article I want to concentrate on face to face verbal communications, particularly one important part of the communication process, "Listening Skills."

There are many barriers to effective communication such as:

  • We’re too busy.
  • Surrounding environmental noise.
  • Predetermining if a particular message will be valuable.
  • Prejudging if the sender is worth listening to.

    Even though we may face some of the above barriers, it is our responsibility as the receiver or listener to ensure we understand what the other party is saying.

    Many times when we think of communicating we focus all of our efforts in the areas of, what to say and how to say it. While this is important do not forget the following: We have 2 ears and 1 mouth and we are to use them in that proportion. In other words, always listen twice as much as you talk.

    However, listening has become a lost art. Try this little quiz to see if you need help listening:
    1. Do you find yourself finishing other peoples' sentences?
    2. Do you interrupt people so you can get your point across?
    3. Do you find that you're not really listening just waiting for your turn to talk?
    4. Have you ever caught yourself looking into someone else’s eyes and realizing that you haven’t heard a word they said?

    If you answered yes to any of the above questions you may find the following tips helpful.

    Keep in mind that listening is not a multi task event. Anytime you are required to be listening to someone you must give them your undivided attention.

    There are techniques that will help improve your listening skills almost immediately. Try to adopt some of the practices listed below, and you and the people around you will notice a difference in your "Listening quotient."

    L - Lean forward into the conversation.
    I - "I see." Use similar phrase when they take a breath as an acknowledgment.
    S - Smile. If the situation calls for it.
    T - Turn around. Be face to face you can’t effective talk to someone’s back.
    E - Eye Contact. This helps you connect but don’t stare.
    N - Nod your head. It’s a gesture that indicates that you're involved.

    Well, some of the above ideas will give you a head’s up on being a better listener. However, even with the best intentions we may find ourselves wandering when someone is talking to us. If you find yourself in this situation keep this in mind, "DON"T FAKE IT." Let the other person know that you became distracted and missed some of the last parts of their message. You will be surprised how many of us are like tape recorders. When you tell them where you checked out of the conversation we have this uncanny ability to rewind ourselves and start over again at a particular point.

    The advantages of investing time in becoming a better listener will reap high rewards. It won’t only improve our communications at work but if you practice these techniques 24 hours a day regardless of the situation you will see your entire life improve. Because being a better listener also means we are better co-workers, spouses, parents and family members.

    People will consider you to be very important if you’ll just take the time to listen to them. It isn’t a contest about who speaks the most. The goal in any communication is to ensure that the message gets across.

    Remember this monthly feature will address topics of interest to you. I really appreciate the input and suggestions I have received in the past. Please send your questions or ideas on topics you would like addressed, to:

    Dave Jakielo, Seminars, Training and Consulting, 86 Hall Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15205-3214. Phone and Fax numbers are 412-921-0976. Email = I wish you continued success. Look forward to hearing from you soon. Have a safe and prosperous summer.

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