If you want to be successful in life, you should strive to be a better listener. Whether you’re in a class lecture, attending a conference, interviewing for a job, or attending (yet another) business meeting, listening is a soft skill that helps you advance your life. It is important outside of academic and professional settings too: with friends, family, and other social settings. That’s why we’ve prepared our list of nine keys to better listening.
1. Listening is not a passive activity.
Prepare yourself before your class, meeting or presentation, thinking that you’re going to truly listen. Clear your head as much as possible to allow your best focus on the topic at hand.
2. Consider your seating.
Sitting near the front or close to the presenter is generally a smart approach. You can see and hear better, you’re less prone to being distracted by others and you can engage more easily with the presenter (e.g., you’re easier to call upon during Q&A).
3. Get settled.
Arrive early to have first choice on seating. That gives you time to settle in (in the best possible seat) with the right tools. You can relax and prepare your notes outline (date, subject, speaker).
4. Remove distractions, both internal & external.
Put your phone on silent mode, clear away anything that could disrupt your focus, and remind yourself that you won’t be chatting, emailing or calling anyone until after your class or meeting. There’s plenty of time for socializing later. Friends and colleagues can wait an hour or two to get your response.
5. Take good notes.
Obviously we care a great deal about taking good notes (we made CaptureNotes and CaptureAudio for it and we blog about it regularly). Notes have a long lifespan, so getting a good set of notes that help you recall what was said is critical to your long-term success.
6. Listen without thinking about how you’re going to respond.
"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." -- Stephen R. Covey
If you’re busy processing how you will utilize the information being presented, you may miss something important. Allocate time for reviewing notes and planning your actions later.
7. Question for clarification.
When something is unclear, ask questions when time permits. If Q&A is allowed at the end of the session, make a note of your query and continue listening. If there’s not enough time in Q&A, at least find out how you can clarify your question via email, office hours or later follow-up.
8. Feed it back: paraphrase it in your own words.
As with the Cornell Method, you will learn best if you summarize the key points in your own words. Taking verbatim notes may be fine at the time, but review and make it your own.
9. Keep practicing.
Listening is a skill, so the key to better listening is practice.
Better Listening FTW
"You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time." --M. Scott Peck
Listening is a critical life skill. The better you get at listening, the more you can learn, improve and communicate. Better listening creates more opportunities in the long run — so set the table and work on your ability to manage distractions, actively listen, take notes and review what you heard.