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Well-developed active listening skills are among the most important attributes that office managers need. Not only does active listening help you deal more effectively with coworkers and clients, but it will also enhance your long-term career prospects by helping you achieve greater levels of success.
Finely-tuned interpersonal communication abilities are crucial for office managers whose daily interactions with others go a long way towards determining how well they perform.
Developing better active listening skills is fairly easy if you observe a few simple principles. Here is a 12-step plan (ok, it’s really not a program) to improve your ability to listen actively:
- Hearing vs. listening. First, know the difference. Hearing is the physical act of registering sound waves, while listening involves the meaning we assign to what we hear and view. Hearing just happens; listening is something you actively do.
- Get rid of all distractions. When a person arrives for a meeting in person or on the phone, put away your smart phone and laptop, turn off your computer monitor and neutralize all other external distractions.
- Sit facing the speaker. This creates an important body language cue that you are engaged with the speaker.
- Establish and maintain eye contact. Studies show that eye contact is one of the most effective ways to establish and maintain rapport with another person.
- Be responsive. Use subtle cues to let the speaker know that you are paying attention and understand what he is saying. Offer the occasional nod or vocalized reassurance.
- Keep your focus.If you find your thoughts starting to wander, return your attention to the speaker. Focus on his or her eyes, listen to the words he or she says, and concentrate solely on active re-engagement.
- Do not make assumptions. Never tune a speaker out because you think you know what he is going to say. While your suspicions may eventually prove accurate, keeping an open mind is crucial to staying engaged and “in the moment.”
- Feedback, feedback, and more feedback.Provide feedback on what you hear from the speaker by paraphrasing what you’ve heard in your own words, focusing on communicating objectively.
- Don’t interject with personal anecdotes. Unless the speaker asks, do not assume he or she wants to know how you dealt with a similar situation. This is especially true if there are significant socioeconomic disparities between the two of you.
- Let him finish.Wait until the speaker completely finishes before offering a verbal response or counterpoint. Come on, you can’t speak and listen at the same time.
- Show engagement. Ask questions, get clarification and impart your understanding throughout the discussion.
- Comprehension is the goal. It takes two to Tango, so without shared meaning between two people communicating, it’s bound to be all left feet and stepping on toes as you attempt to reach agreement.
Use these steps in tandem with your own and take a moment to share some active listening techniques that have proven effective for you. Then enjoy our gift to you – our free Office Manager Cookbook! Download it here and get cooking!