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From cell phones to Facebook to blogging to instant messaging, we’re surrounded by conversations, but all too often we forget that conversation not only entails getting your point across but receiving the intended message of others.

Friday, November 26 is the official National Day of Listening. StoryCorps, founder of the holiday, learned that people want to be heard and when we slow down enough to listen, they actually have something to say. 

Our society is just not programmed for listening; we’re programmed for telling and doing. We’ve found in our communications workshops most people don’t even know how to listen. This Thanksgiving weekend, make a special effort to really listen. You may even want to take StoryCorps’ challenge and devote one hour on Friday to interview and record a conversation with a friend or family member. Try these tips to become a better listener.

Decide that you really want to listen. Many people listen poorly because they have no intention of listening well.

Recognize that listening is not waiting your turn to talk. Salespeople often find that listening is a key ingredient for successful performers and the downfall of poor performers. Responding to what someone says (not what you had planned to say even before they were speaking) says that you care about them and what they have to say. 

Use silence to encourage the talker.  Silence makes some people uncomfortable, and they will do anything to fill it. Women often go for years thinking they married the strong silent-type, when in fact, they just haven’t shut up long enough to find out they married a talker. Try it out on the “strong-silents” in your life. You might be surprised.

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