Blanchard & Walker Weekly

Topic of the Week  Can You Hear Me?: Becoming a Better Listener

· Not listening.

· Listening with your ears.

· Listening with your mind.

· Listening with your heart.

Does it sometimes feel like no one is listening at work? You're not alone. With all the multitasking gone on out there it's rare that we feel like someone is really paying attention to us. Which reminds me of when a retired pastor from Diamond, MO was visiting Crater of the Diamonds State Park. I think you can probably guess where this is going. Pastor Mack Evans said that the rock he picked up in the park didn't even look like a diamond. Considering his name, it had to be, 4.89 karats worth.

Chances are that there are gems lying all around you at work too. But most of us tune out our coworkers, customers, bosses and vendors so we're not in a position to benefit from them. I've listed four levels of listening below to help you hone your skills and hear more at work. For more, check out Eric Juan Slyke's book, "Listening to Conflict" (Amacom, 1999).

Not listening. We've all tuned out the people around us and been tuned out by others. The key is to remember how frustrating it was when you were the one being tuned out. If we all would only remember that feeling, we'd have less people in the not-listening camp. Listen, for no other reason that you don't want to give more people an excuse to not listen to you.

Listening with your ears. This is considered "passive" listening. You're hearing the words that are being said, but it is mostly a passive process. The problem with passive listening, is that to many people who are talking to you will take note of your passivity and chalk it up to the fact that you're not listening. So if you are in this camp, read below for strategies to do a better job of not only listening, but of encouraging the people you work with to talk with you.

Listening with your mind. This is considered "selective" listening. Here you make probing inquiries that shows the other person that you are intellectually engaged with what they're telling you. This is a vast improvement over not listening or passive listening, because you send a strong message that you're someone worth talking to. However, you can still do an even better job if you take your listening to the next level.

Listening with your heart. This is called either "active" or "empathetic" listening, because here you are showing empathy and understanding to the person who is talking to you. This doesn't mean that you have to agree with everything that they say, but you should try to put yourself in their shoes to understand why they are saying what they're saying. This is especially important when it comes to listening to your customers, because you can gain remarkable insight about how to keep them as customers by learning what's important to them regularly.

Speaking of diamonds, if you're like most people your listening skills are like a diamond in the rough. Use these strategies and you'll sparkle.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

Thought of the Week

"Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard."

–Anne Sexton

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