Courses on Poynter News University are often long and slightly boring to sit down and focus on; however, I recently took a course called Lousy Listeners: How to Avoid Being One by Jill Geisler and it was just the opposite. Within this short course, you will take a listener’s quiz (to evaluate how good/bad of a listener you are), learn about the multiple different types of bad listeners, and discover ways to avoid being a lousy listener. I would strongly recommend for any college student to take this course, whether you plan to major in PR/Journalism or not, because communication is vital to success in every aspect of our lives. Without proper listening, there is no effective communication.
When a person is speaking to you, avoiding distractions is key. Disregarding your phone, keeping eye contact, and limiting interruptions will make the person speaking to you feel more important and more satisfied when the conversation is over. If someone asks you if you have a minute, and you don’t, then say that! Rescheduling to a time when you can actively listen to their thoughts is more respectful than rushing him/her.
Putting aside your own thoughts and beliefs to focus on the speaker’s is another important tactic to remember. As humans, we each express ourselves in different ways, so we need to realize that another person will say things differently than we would. It is important to listen rather than ready yourself to reply, try to empathize with the person, give encouraging nods/smiles, and ask for explanation if something is unclear.
After you have a conversation with someone, it is crucial to follow up on that conversation. If you say that you will do something for him/her, write it down and make a point to do it. If not, you can guarantee yourself that the speaker will have a more difficult time talking to you next time around. Listeners who “follow up” create respectful relationships and build beneficial communication channels. After all, who wants to be labeled as a lousy listener?