Are you Really Listening? 5 Ways to Improve your Listening Skills

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.Robert McCloskey quotes 

It's easy to listen for short spans of time. 

It's easy to listen when the speaker is saying exactly what you want to hear. 

It's easy to listen when what you're listening to is something you can relate to or a subject of interest. 

If the pages are flipped, and the situation changes from what you're comfortable with, listening can become a challenge.

You nod your head endlessly while the meeting is on and hold the speaker's gaze like you're completely in tune with they're saying but you know that's not the case. Pretend listening seems like an easy way out but can be quite embarrassing if you get caught.  Listening is extremely important to becoming a good business analyst. What can you do to improve your listening skills?

1. Ensure that meetings are not overly extended. The shorter the time you spend in meetings, the greater your chances of following the dialogue. Listening for extended periods of time is usually not practical or advisable. People get distracted easily and may find their minds straying during the course of the meeting. Establishing realistic time frames during which meetings or workshops are held is essential to sustaining your attention, as well as that of others.

2. Use a recorder - A recorder is not acceptable in all situations and may need to be disclosed to meeting participants. If the setting permits, a recording can act as a memory jogger that would remind you of important points at a future time. This would be useful in the event your mind strays during the meeting. Understand your listening pattern and aim to improve it. In the interim, using a recorder can ensure that you do not miss out on vital information. This is particularly useful when you consider the statistics quoted by the International Listening Association: "We retain only about 50% of what we hear after it's been said and 20% beyond that".

3. Take Notes - Actively taking notes while the meeting is on can help focus the mind on what's being said. It would also reduce the temptation to nod off during the course of the meeting.

4. Avoid the distraction that comes from preparing to take the stage or responding to a question - It's all too easy to get distracted by the angst of preparing what to say in response to what the speaker is saying. Being better prepared for meetings can reduce both the mental and physical distractions that may surface during the meeting.

5. Avoid interruptions - Yes in some situations, you may be passionate about what the speaker is talking about and may urgently want to butt in or complete their sentences for them. Let the person speak first. This not only shows you're listening, it also implies that you have respect for the person speaking.

6. Avoid day-dreaming - hold that thought! If your mind strays easily, you'll need to find a way to actively call yourself back into the moment.

7. Facts are important, but context can provide more insight into what the situation is. Go beyond the bottom line of what the person is trying to say, understand their feelings, read their body language and "get" them.

Listening can be complex. That's why it's referred to as an art. Learn it, Practise it and Listen.