5 Common Reasons You Tune People Out
There is a big difference between listening and hearing. Hearing is a basic human function. Listening, however, is an essential tool productive people develop over time. Listening involves attentive observation of what you hear, as well as the ability to then make a judgment about it. The best leaders are aware of the barriers that can impede effective listening as they typically come in two categories: psychological (such as misinterpretations, biases and so forth) and physical (including external sounds and distractions like a noisy office). Scott McDowell, author of "New Manager Handbook," offers five tips to develop exceptional listening skills.

The first is to beware of acting like a sage. It is easy to think you know the answer before a conversation is even complete. "This type of barrier is a prejudgment,” McDowell wrote. “Rather than having all the answers, it is your job to coax the answers to the surface.” The second tip is to avoid hasty problem solving. After all, solving a problem too early in the process of a conversation can cause an emotional barrier between the leader and his/her team that is difficult to reverse. Tip three is to not get into the habit of "competitive listening," a mode of dominance in which one person assumes control of the conversation by interrupting. Tip four is to minimize reacting to so-called "red flag words," which is any language that can be deemed inflammatory or emotionally difficult. Such words can derail a conversation and short-circuit a learning opportunity. The better alternative is to be unbiased and respond calmly and appropriately instead of with an emotionally charged outburst. Finally, avoid, or at least minimize, obvious physical distractions. "Clearing the decks of all distraction should be the first step in an important one-on-one conversation," McDowell concluded. "That means curtailing access to the Internet, waiting to eat lunch, powering down the device and closing the door to the office."
Fast Company (04/10/15) McDowell, Scott
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