Brainfood: Your Route to the Top - Listen Effectively

One thing at a time. Focus on the person you're talking to, and put everything else to one side until later. If you're having trouble concentrating, pay attention to the quality of their voice, their eye colour and what they are wearing. This will help block out distractions.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Suspend judgment. Focus on what they're saying rather than your analysis of it. Listen now, form your opinion later.

Make gestures. Use your body language to make it clear that you are involved and listening. Keep eye contact and make the occasional nod of recognition.

Ask open questions. A good listener will ask questions that encourage the speaker to delve deeper. Prompting them to identify the highlights of a meeting will be far more effective than 'Did you think the meeting went well?'.

Refer back. Mention in your conversation something the person suggested on a previous occasion. Listening need not be confined to the current discussion.

Get to the point. When dealing with windbags and wafflers, try to pinpoint the central idea or concern they want you to understand. Ask them to clarify it to be sure that you are on the right track.

Hear them out. Reacting too quickly will set them on the defensive and guarantee an argument. Take a deep breath, take your time and stay calm.

Explore their words. Listen to the vocabulary the person chooses to use and be aware of its shadow meanings. 'Rich', 'loaded', and 'fat cat' may all say the same thing on the surface, but they each have different implications.

Be aware of emotions. Does their tone of voice alter while they are talking?

Reflect on this - it may reveal a change beneath the surface and provide a warning to tread carefully.

The Mind Gym: Wake Your Mind Up is published by Time Warner (£12.99), www.themindgym.com.

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