By Kate McGuire | September 6, 2013
A summer course is a special kind of challenge – especially a summer class that takes place over two weekends in mid-July, the warmest, sunniest, summeriest two weekends of the year.
Luckily, this class on Conflict, Facilitation & Communication sounds like one of the most challenging and impactful courses in the program, and I’m looking forward to it. The course runs from Friday evening through all day Sunday, two weekends in a row. It’s a great fit for those of us working full-time, but listening well, through the weekend, will take extra work after a full week of 9-to-5s.
Wanting to get the most out of this class has me researching strategies for active listening – tips that will come in handy even in the mind-wandering, sun-shiny dog days of summer.
Take note of these listening strategies to help you hear, understand, and retain what people are really saying in your next meeting, training, or interpersonal interaction.
1. Engage Your Mind
It seems obvious, but it’s so easy to let out minds wander. This barrier is probably one of the main reasons why we retain only 25-50% of what we hear. To be a mindful listener, put away mental distractions like daydreaming or planning your response while someone else speaks. Looking at the speaker directly and responding non-verbally (a nod, a smile or a tilted head) show that you’re listening and prevents you from getting distracted.
2. Process What You Hear
To avoid “in one ear and out the other” syndrome, ask your mind to engage with the material it’s hearing. As a listener, you can mentally organize the information you hear to make sure you understand and to help yourself remember. Try focusing on key points as you listen and categorizing them into main ideas.
For example, if a teammate shares that her goals this week are to redesign the company newsletter, research new trends in print media, learn more about a new social media platform and draft new logo ideas, you may not remember every point later in the week. But if you can file what she shared into mental categories like “design work” (newsletter, logo) and “research projects” (print and social media), you will remember those main goals next time she checks in, even if you forget the specifics.
3. Ask Questions
Responding to information by asking questions helps to solidify what you’ve heard in your memory. You can check for understanding by asking questions to confirm information, clarifying key points, and offering examples based on class materials.
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