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How would you rate your listening skills? Or more importantly, how do you think others would rate your listening skills. If your answer is not an emphatic “great!” then chances are you may have some work to do (or need a quick refresher on how to be a good listener).
Listening is an integral part of everyday communication. Whether you’re talking to a coworker, an employee, a boss, a spouse, or a friend, possessing the qualities of a good listener can help improve your relationships at work and at home.
Try to develop these 4 qualities to help you enhance your listening skills:
Focus: Give 100% of Your Attention to The Speaker
We’ve all been in a conversation with someone who is physically present but not really there. It’s not a positive feeling knowing that the person you’re talking to is not really listening to what you’re saying because they’re preoccupied with something else. Being an active listener means that you’re not looking at your phone, staring at the clock, or continually checking your laptop. Doing these things while in a conversation sends the signal that you’re not interested in what the other person is saying. Instead, completely tune out distractions and make a conscious effort to focus 100% on the speaker. If you have a lot on your mind and can’t give the other person your undivided attention, then postpone the conversation until you can.
Openness: Use Physical Clues to Show You’re Listening
A big part of communication comes from non-verbal clues. That’s why your body language can be a key indicator of whether or not you’re actively listening to someone. When engaged in a conversation, don’t stand with your arms crossed, repeatedly fidget, or look everywhere except into the eyes of the person you’re speaking to. You can send clear signs that you’re listening and open to the conversation by smiling, nodding, and maintaining an appropriate level eye contact. If you’re unsure about how much eye contact to make, follow the speaker’s lead to gauge their level of comfort.
Awareness: Ask Questions and Comment at the Appropriate Time
During the conversation inject small acknowledgements to demonstrate that you’re listening such as nodding and saying, “uh huh”. Once the person you’re speaking to has finished talking, you should ask relevant questions or add a comment to show you’ve been paying attention. It’s always a good idea to say something like, “so what I hear you saying is…” or “what I’m hearing is…” to summarize the conversation and be sure you fully understand what’s been said.
Patience: Don’t Interrupt
Cutting people off mid-sentence is impolite and distracting. The speaker can lose his or her train of thought and feel frustrated by the interruptions. Furthermore, interrupting can make people feel like you don’t value what they have to say and that your opinion or input is more important theirs.
If you have a question or don’t understand something, be patient and wait until the speaker is finished with what he or she is saying. Then ask for clarification or add your two cents. Your question may even be answered by the time the other person is finished with the story anyway.
Being a good listener sounds simple enough, but with the distractions of everyday life it can be quite a challenge. Try to be mindful of the person who is speaking and look at each conversation as an opportunity to learn something new about someone or something.
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