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  Briefing and Intent - The Ten Commandments of Good Listening




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Listening is a process involving the reception and interpretation of messages spoken by others. A common misconception about listening is that it is easy. In fact, the opposite is true. Studies have shown that good listeners show increases in their physical activity when they are listening to others. Since the effectiveness of communications depends so heavily on good listening, it is important to develop our listening skills.



The Ten Commandments of Good Listening:

  1. Stop talking. Obvious, but not easy.
  2. Put the speaker at ease. Create a permissive, supportive climate in which the speaker will feel free to express himself or herself.
  3. Show a desire to listen. Act interested and mean it.
  4. Remove distractions. External preoccupation is less likely if nothing external is present to preoccupy you.
  5. Empathize. Try to experience to some degree the feelings the speaker is experiencing.
  6. Be patient. Give the speaker time to finish; don't interrupt.
  7. Hold your temper. Don't let your emotions obstruct your thoughts.
  8. Go easy on argument and criticism. Suspend judgment.
  9. Ask questions. If things are still unclear when a speaker has finished, ask questions which serve to clarify the intended meanings.
  10. Stop talking. In case you missed the first commandment.

(K. Davis, Human Behavior at Work, McGraw Hill, 1972)

Preparation. If you know what the topic is ahead of time, learn something about it so you will not be an ignorant listener. Even some careful thinking will allow you to listen more accurately when the communication actually begins.

Seek intent. Try to discover the intent of the source; why is he or she saying these things?

Seek structure. Look for an organizational scheme of the message. If the speaker is an accomplished one, you won't have to look very hard; it will be obvious. But if the speaker is less skilled, the responsibility falls to you.

Analyze. Do not accept what you hear at face value; analyze what the speaker is saying and pay attention to body language.

Focus. Keep the main topic of the message in mind at all times, using it to bring focus to the information which the speaker supplies.

Motivate yourself. This may be the most important. Listening takes work, and to do that you may have to "psych yourself up."

(P. Bradley and J. Baird, Communication for Business and the Professions, Brown, 1980)


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