Tag Archives: multitask

What’s That You Say? Seven Tips for Active Listening

shutterstock_94885411By Dr. Laura Hills, President, Blue Pencil Institute, www.bluepencilinstitute.com

Most career professionals engage in conversation throughout much if not all of the day. Read the suggestions below for listening actively in conversation and then try to implement them when you converse with clients and colleagues later today or the next day you come to work. You may be surprised by the effort active listening requires, as well as by the positive results you achieve by listening actively.

1. Don’t listen only to yourself. Conversation is a way for two or more people to give and take ideas. It is not an opportunity to express your views without listening actively to others.

2. Listen carefully to questions you’re asked so you’re sure that you understand them completely before you give your answers. Ask the interrogator to rephrase or explain a question if you have any doubts about its meaning. Or, say this before you give your answer: “Let me see if I understand your question. You want to know (rephrase it).” Then let the other person agree or disagree with your interpretation of the question before you begin your answer.

3. Don’t engage in side conversation or other activities while someone you should be listening to is talking. Don’t multitask. Focus on listening.

4. Make it apparent that you are listening by facing the speaker and looking engaged. Don’t let your eyes or your attention wander. Force yourself to listen, even when it is difficult to do so.

5. Keep your mind open and flexible. However, continue to be critical of what the other person is saying. Don’t accept blindly whatever your speaking partner suggests. Look for the information that is missing from his or her argument, and also be alert to assumptions and opinions.

6. Look for hidden meanings. People may try to conceal their true thoughts from you. If you feel that someone is keeping the truth from you, ask, “Oh?” or “What do you mean?” in an even, non-threatening tone. Examples of clients’ comments that may have hidden meanings: “That’s pretty expensive,” “I’m a terrible client,” “Following your advice/meeting your deadline is going to be pretty tough,” and “I’ve always been lazy/mistrustful/cheap”. Don’t assume you know what the client means when they say such things to you. Ask for clarification.

7. Ask the speaker to repeat anything you miss or that confuses you. Do this even if the person who is speaking is difficult to understand due to an accent, speech mannerism, or speech impediment. Also, ask the speaker to repeat himself or herself when background noise is interfering with your listening or if the speaker mutters or leaves out important information. Be polite when you ask for a repetition. Smile appropriately. Be very clear that you either could not hear the speaker or understand him or her. Let the speaker know that you “get it” after the repetition, either verbally or with a head nod.

So You Think You Can Multitask? Try This!

shutterstock_4842088By Dr. Laura Hills, President, Blue Pencil Institute

If you’re reading this while participating in a webinar, eating a sandwich, and periodically checking your email, please stop! Multitasking will ultimately reduce your productivity, strain your focus, and produce poorer results, for two reasons:

  1. No one can actually perform several cognitive tasks simultaneously. Rather, multitaskers quickly switch from one task to the other. Therefore, all things being equal, multitasking should be no faster than single tasking.
  2. Bearing this point in mind, it would seem that a person would require a certain amount of time to switch from one task to the other. Even if that time is tiny, it will ultimately add up after numerous switches from task to task. This would suggest that multitasking is actually slower than tackling one task at a time.

If you don’t believe this, try this exercise and see for yourself. Take out a blank piece of paper and write the word multitasking in upper case letters. Then, below the word, write the numbers 1-12, one number beneath each letter, like this:

M   U   L   T   I   T   A   S   K   I    N    G

1    2   3   4   5   6   7   8    9  10  11  12

 You did that relatively quickly and easily, right?

Now turn the paper over. You will write the word multitasking and the numbers 1-12 again. But this time, you’ll do it by multitasking. Do not write the whole word. Rather, switch back and forth between writing the word and writing the numbers beneath it. Begin by writing the m and then beneath it, the 1. Then write the u and beneath it the number 2. Then write the L and beneath it the number 3, etc. Ready? Don’t look at your previous work or these instructions. Now, go ahead and try it.

That was considerably more difficult and took much longer, didn’t it? Switching back and forth between writing a word and writing a sequence of numbers cut your productivity and probably, created some strain. Remember this exercise the next time you’re tempted to multitask. In the long run, you’ll find that focusing on a single task will make you better and faster at it – and far less stressed.