Peer to Peer

September 2009

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Page 5 of 91 6 Peer to Peer BEST PRACTICES S o there you are, taking note of Bob's favorite camping trip story (the one about the raccoon), when your eyes glaze over like a day-old Krispy Kreme doughnut. Is it you? Is it him? After all, that bit with the raccoon was pretty exciting. Developing good listening skills is both easy and difficult. It's easy because we've all been doing it for years. It's difficult because we've developed ingrained habits that stop us from truly listening to what other people are saying. Good listening skills form a fundamental but often overlooked aspect of personal development. How difficult is it to just sit there and hear what someone else has to say? But listening and hearing are two different things. We hear all sorts of noises throughout the day — the clack of the keyboard, the phone's ring (or beep, or chirp or gong), the printer running through paper. But these are all noises that we are used to, so we tend to "tune them out." Unfortunately, we also tend to "tune out" people who say things we don't want to hear, or things that we know about or even things that we just don't find interesting. That's the danger, because in those conversations there might be gold nuggets worth mining. There might also be two diametrically opposed conversations going on at once: What we hear and what is actually being said. Different Situations Call for Different Kinds of Attention face-to-face The relationship to the person you're talking to, how well you know that person and how well you know the topic can change how you listen. You'll listen to a supervisor giving you instructions more intently than you will to a family member regaling you with tales of a nutty raccoon. When talking to someone face-to-face, you'll pick up a lot of information in nonverbal clues. If you want to be an active listener, be sure to pay attention to the speaker's body language, gestures, tone of voice and choice of words. in a large Group When we talk one-on-one, it is easier to notice nonverbal clues than when we are talking in a large group. You run the risk of hearing a lot of people speaking at the same time in a group, so you do not have the chance to take in all the details. In a group situation, you might only get the gist of what is being said and not all the fine points that each speaker contributes. In a group, you have to find the speaker with the most important information, but you cannot stick to that person exclusively. Groups tend to build information as one speaker prompts another to contribute to the whole. To get the most out of a group, you'll have to be a listening hummingbird, quickly selecting the best bits of information on which to focus. Try to avoid the know-it-all who must comment on every point. He or she can be quickly identified, but not completely ignored. on the telephone True, it is easier to focus on a telephone conversation (if we don't distract ourselves by checking e-mail at the same time). Listening on the telephone, however, means we cannot see the other person and miss out on their nonverbal clues. You have to rely on the words you hear, and the tone of voice that the speaker uses as clues to deeper meaning. Take some small steps to become a better listener: • listen carefully to what the speaker says. Pick out the key words. It's easier to remember one or two important words than a whole sentence. • Repeat the information you've been given to the person who gave it to you (this works best for instructions). The other person has an opportunity to correct you, and the repetition will help you remember what you heard. • ask questions about anything of which you are unsure. Concentrate on the Clues to Be a Better Listener

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