Three Tips for Better Listening

Lauren Krause
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As an administrative assistant, you're often the first point of contact for people who want to connect with your company. It's important that you make a good impression when you're communicating with people, which means that good listening skills are essential. However, in today's fast-paced world, most people spend more time learning how to tune distractions out than they do learning how to listen. Employers want to know that you're constantly working on improving yourself, and learning how to become a good listener is a great place to start.

The first step to becoming a good listener is to stop distracting yourself when people are talking. According to Pamela Cooper, vice president of the International Listening Association, there's a common misconception that when we hear, we listen. However, it takes a lot of concentration to actually listen to what you're hearing. If you're sending a quick text or scrolling through your Facebook feed while someone is talking, you aren't concentrating on what the person is saying. It's important that you learn how to give someone your undivided attention. Not only does it help you hone your listening skills, which makes you a better administrative assistant, you'll find that it's an essential step to improving yourself and your relationships with others.

It's also important to show the person that you're communicating with that you're listening. A good way to do this is to maintain eye contact with the individual, lean in a little bit as he or she speaks, and, when appropriate, nod your head. You should also pay attention to the person's body language, because it can tell you a lot about the individual's mood. For example, someone who is talking rapidly and smiling is probably excited about something, and someone whose chin is tilted slightly towards the ground is most likely insecure about something. If you're talking to someone on the phone, it's important to acknowledge the person you're talking to and to be empathetic. Try responding with comments that start with phrases like "You must be feeling…" or "So, if I'm hearing you correctly…" to let the person know that you're listening and you care about what is being said. Paraphrasing is a great way to clarify someone's intentions and show that you're listening.

In order to become a better listener, you need to break any bad habits you have such as interrupting people, becoming defensive, trying to find problems in the stories people tell you, or constantly trying to top people's stories. Sometimes it can be hard to resist the urge to interject something into the conversation or to tell a great story you have about the topic, but stopping a conversation to talk about yourself makes the speaker feel like you aren't genuinely interested in the story you're being told.

Listening is a skill that every administrative professional needs to master. Whether you're communicating with clients or coworkers, you can't do your job well if you aren't listening—and seen to be listening—to what others have to say.

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