Are you an active listener?

Take our active listener survey and find out.

Richard G. Ensman, Jr., is a syndicated columnist and writes from Rochester, New York.

Are you an active listener? Or more specifically, when you're engrossed in conversation, do you simply hear words, phrases, and sentences? Or do you hear under lying ideas, feelings, and concerns?

Active listening involves much more than simple hearing. Active listeners use a variety of sensory skills sight, sound, even gestures and facial expressions to deepen the communication process.

When you are conversing with another person a colleague, a subordinate, a business acquaintance do you listen with your whole body and mind? Do you actively listen? Take the simple self-scoring quiz on the following page to help find out.

Score yourself on the 25 active listening skills that are in the box. If you usually practice the skill in question, score yourself with a 2. If you sometimes practice the skill, score yourself with a 1, and if you seldom practice the skill, give yourself a 0. And remember: be brutally honest with yourself; no one is looking over your shoulder.

Now, total your score. If your total score is 40 or above, congratulations. You're a good conversation partner and practice active listening skills quite effectively. If your total score is be tween 30 and 39, you're probably familiar with active listening techniques and you may well use them but additional practice of these all-important communication skills won't hurt. If your total score is below 30, don't fret. You can increase your awareness of communication techniques, as well as your ability to be an effective listener. Read some of the excellent material on active listening that's out on the market, take a workshop on listening skills, and practice your listening techniques every opportunity you get.

Next time you are involved in a conversation, remember that active listening places the focus of conversation on the person you're speaking with not yourself. Active listening places your conversation partner in the role of primary speaker and you in the role of listener.

Focus intently on your conversation partners "with your words, your gestures, your feelings, and your thoughts" and you'll make best use of your active listening skills. More important, you'll notice an increase in the satisfaction and morale of the people around you.

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Richard G. Ensman, Jr., is a syndicated columnist and writes from Rochester, New York.

September 1995

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