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Commentary

Everybody Listen

The BrainYard - Where collaborative minds congregate.
A recent blog post in the Times restates some old saws (worthy as they may be) on how to be a good listener. Interestingly, three of them require that you be able to see the person you're talking to--not so easy on the phone, e-mail or IM. In today's virtual world, listening seems to be harder to do than ever.We've all been on conference calls during which we do other things while we're supposedly listening to what's being said. But how much can we really hear when we're simultaneously reading and replying to e-mail, having IM chats, or even getting real work done? Not much.There's really no way aroundit: Thenumber-one way to be a good listener is simply to pay attention to what's being said--and that means closing out other applications while you're doing it.Of course, multi-tasking has its place; if you're in a meeting that doesn't really require that you listen but just that you be there, the nice thing about being virtual is you can, in fact, use that time for other, more productive things. Just don't be surprised when someone calls out your name and you are forced to play the "I'm sorry, could you repeat the question?" card we all know so well. (That doesn't really work unless the question was actually complex or poorly stated; otherwise, you're just busted.)Meanwhile, to the list on the Times blog, I'd add one more thing: Don't take notes. A high school teacher recommended this to me right before I started college, and once I did it, I realized how useful it was. When you're taking notes, you're not listening, you're transcribing, and you don't really hear what's being said. If you simply close your eyes and truly listen (another area where being virtual actually works in your favor), you'll suss out what's important from what's not. Then you can jot downonly those salient points--as well as questions and your own thoughts--and walkaway with a synopsis of the session that really captures what was said, and what was meant.