Rule #1: Stop Talking!

You can't multi-task speaking and listening. If you're talking, you're not listening. This rule also applies to the talking inside your head. If you're thinking intently about what you want to say, you're not listening to what is being said.

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Rule #2: Create a Space

Create a physical space. Focus on reacting and responding to the speaker. Create, too, a space in your mind for what the speaker has to say. Create a space between your thoughts. Think of listening as a form of meditation. Quiet your mind and focus your attention on listening.

Rule #3: Hold Your Judgments

How often we have passionately expressed a gut reaction only to become turned around and regret what we said after hearing more of the facts? Allow for a thoughtful pause between reacting, a space in which to ask yourself, "Do I have the whole story?"

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Rule #4: Don't Be a Label Reader

People are unique. We tend to create labels like Liberal, Dead Head, Wise Guy, and think we know what's inside. Suddenly, we believe we know everything about someone, but they are not really all alike.

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Rule #5: Open Your Mind

While we may not consciously feel the need to be right, we tend to have certain ideas about reality and feel groundless when they're threatened. Groundless now and then isn't a bad thing. Without it we can't break new ground or find common ground; it's okay to be unsure.

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Rule #6: Focus

When someone is speaking, focus. If you're paying attention, you'll likely be showing signs of focus such as making eye contact without thinking about it at all. Below are some of the ways we show we're listening.

Maintain eye contact. In the US, not making eye contact has the connotation of someone untrustworthy. But realize, too, that steady eye contact in some cultures is considered impolite or aggressive.

Give non-verbal clues. Nod, lean toward the speaker, take on the general demeanor of someone who is interested.  >>>

Encourage the speaker to go on. Especially over the phone, hearing no response feels like no one is listening.

Don't be a verbal trespasser. A verbal trespasser is one who interrupts or finishes the speaker's sentences.

Ask open questions. Open questions encourage the speaker. They elicit a more detailed response than closed questions. "What" and "Why" are usually helpful starts to open questions.

Summarize. Summarizing is often helpful, especially if you have had a misunderstanding, are unsure of expectations, or have just reached an agreement. Ensure that everyone is coming away with the same idea.

Rule #7: Visualize

Visualization is a technique that can enhance listening: a picture is worth a thousand words. One way to use visualization is to visualize what you are being told. Some people are more visual than others. If visualization is more a chore than a help, you may not be a visual person. But anything new takes some adjustment and might take a few tries before feeling natural.

Rule #8: Remember Names

The first step in remembering names is deciding that they are important to remember. Listen when you're told about someone prior to introductions. Repeat the names when you are introduced. Make associations to remember names.

Rule #9: Question

Going into a listening situation with questions in your mind will help you remember and, often, put information into the framework of your existing knowledge. Listen to body language and be quick to clarify assumptions if you are unsure or are getting a negative message. Observe. Listen. Ask.

Rule #10: Be Aware

We must be aware of the speaker, aware of verbal and non-verbal cues, and aware of our own listening strengths and challenges.  >>>

Bonus Rule: Know When To Break the Rules

If it's hard to start a conversation and something mindless that engages a connection can bring you together, go for it!  >>>



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