By Justin Bigger
In Chapter Eight of Management Communication, O’Rourke tackles listening and lists several tips in order to improve your listening skills in such a way as to be more successful in the workplace. Listening is such a vital ingredient to our success and yet we focus so little on it, especially in education. Think about it for a minute. When we are in school, we a required to make presentations, write essays, and absorb written information in such a way as to be successful taking a exam. So little is actually focused on the art of listening, and its contribution to communication.
In high school, I was very active in debate. My personality is such that I often seek debate for the sake of debate, and I don’t think that my social needs could be completely met without some form of debate just for the sake of debate. It’s fun to me and it’s a great exercise in listening. In fact, if I think back to my successes and failures in debate, the common denominator was always active listening. If I focus on the times I was unsuccessful, it was always a situation where I was too passionate about my position that I completely shut out my opponent’s position. The key to success in a debating is yielding certain points, much like you would feel out your opponent in a boxing match. You actively listen to such a degree that you are able to ask the right questions and solicit the right kind of responses from your competitor that they unwittingly lose the argument. This constant feedback loop of receiving key information and responding to it is integral to success in a debating atmosphere, and it’s one of the best ways to increase your skills at listening.
The ability to actively listen to others is paramount to any kind of true success in the workplace, and the best way to achieve this is to train your mind in such a way that you unconsciously do it all the time. In my experience, a fantastic way to improve your listening skills is to debate. I understand that some may not naturally seek debate and maybe are even opposed to it, but the benefit of putting yourself in situations where you have to absorb information actively and immediately respond it is one of the best ways to improve your skills at listening.