Improving Your Listening Skills

Soulbound by Bethany Adams available on Amazon

“Listening is the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process.” ~ SkillsYouNeed

Much of this outline comes from SkillsYouNeed.com. We highly recommend looking at the site. Will and BJ start by talking about why you need to improve you listening skills by explaining the differences in hearing and listening and the benefits of being an active listener. They then provide tips for improving listening skills by removing distractions and putting your focus on the person speaking. Next they define what it takes to become an active listener and signs of active listening. Finally the guys discuss some of the hindrances to becoming an active listener and how to avoid them.

Episode Breakdown

  • 12:22 Why Improve Listening Skills

    “Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others.” ~ Mind Tools

    • 12:53 Not the Same as Hearing

      Hearing refers to the sounds you hear and can include background noises, dogs barking, loud music, etc. Whereas listening requires focus and paying attention to not only the story but how it is being told

    • 13:35 Why we Listen

      We primarily listen to obtain information and understanding. Both Will and BJ listen to podcasts regularly to learn. BJ listens to books for entertainment while driving long distances. Listening is a major source for the information that we take in.

    • 14:41 Increase Employability

      Richard Branson has attributed his success to the ability to actively listen. Many employers provide listening skills training to better the communications within a company. Having these skills going into an interview will put you above the others applying.

    • 15:25 Personal Life

      Better listening skills will improve the quality of friendships. It can also increase your self esteem and confidence because you know what is being said and are better prepared in conversations.

  • 15:53 How to Improve Listening Skills

    “If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” Mark Twain.

    • 16:03 Stop Talking and Prepare to Listen

      Before you are able to listen effectively you need to remove distractions. This may mean turning off the radio or putting the dog in another room when guests are visiting. Focus on the person speaking and put other thoughts out of your mind. Don’t be planning what you will have for lunch while listening to your boss in a meeting.

    • 18:45 Seek to Understand Before Seeking to be Understood

      “When somebody cannot predict what you are going to say because you haven’t said it yet they have to wait.”

      This can be seen in the current political debates. The candidates do not listen to each other but use the time the other is talking to prepare their retort. When you change focus to understanding over being understood your modus operandi will be to listen. Use silence to your advantage and collect information before disseminating it.

    • 21:32 Put the Speaker at Ease

      Sit or stand facing the person speaking, be patient, and maintain eye contact. This doesn’t mean stare at the speaker but show them you are focused and interested in what they are saying. Avoid personal prejudices by empathizing or putting yourself in the speaker’s shoes. Also watch for non-verbal communication. To be an effective listener you need to not only hear what is being said but observe body language and inconsistencies between the verbal and non-verbal messages.

    • 27:48 Wait for a Pause to Ask for Clarification

      DO NOT interrupt unless absolutely necessary (the building is on fire). When asking for clarification wait until a pause as the speaker may answer your question without the need to ask it. Use silences effectively as your opportunity to ask.

    • 29:31 Ask Questions Only to Ensure Understanding

      Questions can be used in many ways from showing your own knowledge to leading the conversation off topic. Be cognizant of your reasons for asking a question and if it is not for your own understanding do not ask. If you do lead the conversation off topic with a question take responsibility for going off topic and bring the discussion back to the topic at hand.

    • 33:36 Listen to the Words and Try to Picture What the Speaker is Saying

      Create a mental image with what the person speaking is saying. As a speaker Will is very good with his examples and BJ is able to easily recall conversations by employing this technique.

  • 35:28 Becoming an Active Listener

    “Be aware that active listening can give others the impression that you agree with them even if you don’t. It’s also important to avoid using active listening as a checklist of actions to follow, rather than really listening.” ~ Mind Tools

    • 35:47 Positive Reinforcement

      Vocal encouragement such as “uh huh” and “yes” or non-vocal encouragement such as nodding your head should be used sparingly and only if you do agree with what the speaker is saying. They can be distracting or give a false sense of agreement if not used properly. When you do agree elaborate or explain why you are agreeing with a certain point.

    • 36:50 Remembering

      “The human mind is notoriously bad at remembering details, especially for any length of time.” ~ SkillsYouNeed

      Remember by keeping track of key points about details, ideas and concepts. In longer conversations or meetings take notes to help you keep track of the conversation and remember it later.

    • 37:44 Questioning

      Relevant questions can grow the conversation and help educate or inform all involved. Use questions to clarify your understanding of what the speaker is saying.

    • 38:03 Reflection

      Reflection is closely repeating or paraphrasing a particular point to reinforce the message. It can also demonstrate understanding of the topic.

    • 38:43 Clarification

      Clarification is a specific type of questioning used to understand the message of the speaker. Use open-ended questions that allow the speaker to expand on certain points.

    • 39:06 Summarization

      To summarize take the main points and reiterate them in a logical and clear manner. Give the speaker a chance to correct any misunderstanding if necessary.

    • 40:22 Signs of Active Listening
      1. Smile
      2. Eye Contact
      3. Posture
      4. Mirroring
      5. Distraction
  • 45:17 Hindrances to Effective Listening

    “It is common, when listening to someone else speak, to be formulating a reply whilst the other person is still talking. However, this means that we are not really listening to all that is being said.” ~ SkillsYouNeed

    • 45:35 Paying Attention to More Than One Conversation

      This can happen in Monday morning stand-ups when people are having cross conversations about their weekend or projects. Another area this occurs is when a person is on the phone and trying to have a conversation with another person in the room as well. Environmental noise can also be problematic such as a TV, radio, or noisy bar. Reduces the number of distractions so that you only have one conversation to participate in.

    • 48:39 Finding the Communicator Attractive or Unattractive

      This is two sides to the same coin. Finding the speaker attractive either physically or being in awe of their work may lead to loss of focus. Conversely if the person speaking has traits that annoy or anger you then even if you agree with the point they are making you may feel an emotional pull to disagree.

    • 50:47 Not Focussed or Not Interested

      This happens to us all at some point. A family situation has us preoccupied or we are feeling ill and not able to focus on the task or meeting at hand. If not able to put that aside for the conversation or meeting excusing yourself to deal with the preoccupation is in your best interest if possible.

    • 52:30 Preconceived Ideas

      Bias, prejudice, and previous experiences can all lead to making premature judgements about the topic of conversation. Another area this appears is in not empathizing with the speaker. Sympathizing may appear and feel like empathy but instead it is feeling sorry for the experiences of another rather than putting oneself in their place. Identifying also appears like empathy but is understanding on a cognitive level what the other has experienced but not being able to concieve of those experiences.

IoTease: Project Valkyrie

Complete Developer In Space

The parts list is complete and now we just need to order everything and start assembly. Most of the equipment will be purchased from Amazon.com

Basic Hardware

  • Balloon
  • Parachute
  • Prepaid Cellphone
  • Styrofoam Cooler
  • GoPro Camera
  • Canon A470 camera
  • Battery powered USB phone charger
  • Instant hand warmers
  • Batteries
  • Radar reflector
  • Raspberry Pi 3
  • Sensors: Temperature, Barometer, Altometer
  • Arduino Uno

The launch date will be in the Spring of 2017. This will allow us time to do some testing of the equipment and get all the proper permissions to send a balloon up into space. Currently we are looking to launch in southern Georgia but have not finalized the location.

Tricks of the Trade

There is a general rule when writing services that you are very tolerant of what you recieve. The services doesn’t fall over because of what it recieves. On the converse you write the service to provide well structured and clean output. Structure things in such a way that the communication doesn’t cause a problem.

Editor’s Notes:

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2 comments on “Improving Your Listening Skills
  1. Dama BROWN says:

    I am not a coder or a techie; I am a lawyer. But I found your podcast while looking for something to help me become a better listener. Nice job–I really enjoyed the episode! Thanks.

  2. I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for magnificent info I was looking for this information for my mission.

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