How To Improve Your Listening Skills At Work

07/03/2017 11:50 pm ET Updated Jul 04, 2017

Whether you’re new on the job or you’ve been employed at your company for while, everyone can use a lesson in improving how they listen at work. How many times have you been stuck in a meeting and zone out during a presentation or someone is speaking on a topic you have no interest in and you figure — why bother, so you end up checking your tweets or hop on Tinder and start swiping? But did you ever think you’re the one with the listening problem? Probably not.

If you’re not walking out of meetings feeling inspired, productive, or accomplished, you should reevaluate your listening skills. Yes, there are a few meetings you’ll attend in your career that leave you wondering, “Why did this just happen and how do I get back the last 45 minutes of my life,” but if every meeting or gathering you attend leaves you feeling that washed out — something’s a miss and my bet is on your lack if paying attention. But you can fix all that with some self-awareness and practice. (And you can apply this to your relationships at home too)

There are two types of listening we can do, we either “listen for” or “listen with.” I’ll break down the two so you can quickly see the major difference between the two and how its been impacting your career.

“Listening for” is the type of listening you do when you’re being receptive to ideas and open to suggestions. Someone is talking and you’re actually listening with the intent of grasping their concept, main idea, or information. The act of “listening for” will leave you with some type of insight and it’s the best type when you’re receiving feedback from a supervisor or a colleague. This type of listening will advance your career and accelerate your plans of climbing the success ladder.

“Listening with” is the kind of listening that closes you off to what’s being said and shuts down any chance of truly having an exchange. This type of listening comes with baggage. You’re either listening with judgment, bitterness, or “fill in the blank.” You are too busy trying to get your point across that you’re missing the actual exchange and the opportunity to establish collaboration with another department, colleague, or better your relationship with your supervisor.

Now, you may be mentally flipping through situations and thinking, but Penny in Payroll seems to always “listen for” and she gets trampled on and Sheri in Media is always “listening with” and she’s a hard core profit making machine for the company. It may seem like the good guy does’t always finish first, but my focal point is you — not them. What’s best for you and your career and where you want to go? Since listening usually involves two people, and you’re part of the equation, you want to make sure you’re not creating a hostile work environment and leaving behind a trail of negativity because you never know who will be listening when it’s time to switch companies and you’re on an interview for a new job with an old coworker.

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