So many of us spend great amounts of time and energy developing skills like time management, public speaking, and leadership skills to be successful on the job. But what about taking time to develop the skill of listening?

Are you a good or bad listener? Let me test you for a second with these two questions. Now, lets be honest...

  • How often do you find yourself trying hard to avoid the bad habit of interrupting others while they are speaking?
  • Do you find yourself tempted to jump in and finish someone else's sentence?

You see, effective listening is being content to listen to the entire thought of someone rather than waiting impatiently for your chance to respond.

Richard Carlson in Don't Sweat the Small Stuff gives us the full context:

"We often treat communication as if it were a race. It's almost like our goal is to have no time gaps between the conclusion of the sentence of the person we are speaking with and the beginning of our own. If you think about it, you'll notice that it takes an enormous amount of energy and is very stressful to be sitting at the edge of your seat trying to guess what the person in front of you (or on the telephone) is going to say so that you can fire back your response. But as you wait for the people you are communicating with to finish, as you simply listen more intently to what is being said, you'll notice that the pressure you feel is off."

Great advice, and I wholeheartedly agree. It eases the tension and the people speaking will feel more relaxed and safe in responding because they won't feel in competition with you for "airtime."

You think this makes a difference? You betcha. Some of my most meaningful relationships happen because both sides listen intently. It works.

5 immediate tangible benefits from listening well at work:

1. Mutual trust: Authentic listening generates respect and trust between talker and listener. Employees will naturally respond better to managers who they think are listening intently to their needs.

2. Productivity: Problems are solved faster if people are encouraged to explain problems and be given the freedom to work though solutions out loud before being told what to do.

3. Cooler heads prevail: Listening intently helps both sides to stay cool -- and helps them cool off -- when they are dealing with a crisis or discussing a sensitive issue.

4. Boosts confidence: Great listeners tend to have better self-esteem and self-image because, in their listening, they work toward establishing positive relationships.

5. Fewer mistakes: Good listening leads to more accuracy in retaining information. You'll remember important facts later on, minimizing the risk of miscommunication and making mistakes.