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Maintaining the Skills to be an Effective Listener

Focus, assimilation, understanding and response are the key elements for effective listening.

Focus is a concentrated effort to identify and avoid various distractions. Personal problems, problems with the speaker, emotional responses, problems with the physical environment and fatigue are all distractions. The effective listener takes positive steps to reduce or eliminate these distractions prior to and during the presentation.

Assimilation and understanding are enhanced when you take action (such as taking notes), avoid distractions during the presentation, control your emotions and provide the speaker with some positive feedback indicating that the message is being received.

In addition, effective listening is enhanced when you listen with your entire body -- visually watch slides and overheads, and respond to the speaker with an occasional nod of the head or a smile.

Evidence of your effective listening will be in the form of passing an exam, improvement in a job-related skill or some other positive benefit. You will be a more effective person both on and off the job, because you have forced yourself to become a "good listener."