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Are You Listening?

4 good listening habits you need to adopt now--and 4 you ought to leave curbside

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Let's be honest. Some of you are great listeners, and some of you just aren't. If you're not sure what category you fall into, you might want to read on. While working on my latest book, Secrets of VITO: Think and Sell Like a CEO, I was able to observe some of the listening habits of top decision-makers. Here, I recount some of the wise habits I picked up on--followed by some habits that should be dropped pronto. Let's see how many of these you can relate to.

Good Listening Habits

1. No fear. If you know how to listen, you're not afraid to ask a question or two for clarification. In other words, you know you don't have all the answers. No one likes to look foolish or uninformed, but individuals who appear to have all the answers may not be trusted. What do you think of a salesperson who is a know-it-all?

2. Listening to everyone. You don't judge the importance of what's being said by the uniform of the person saying it. You will listen to people at all levels of business stature--from the custodian to your vice president.

3. Not overreacting. You've learned how to maintain your cool during conversations, even when something upsets you. You know that if you let your emotions get to you, you won't be able to listen effectively.

4. Not assuming you have all the facts. While listening, you never say to yourself "This sounds like such-and-such" or "Now they're going to say." You wait for the full story.

Bad Habits

1. Never taking notes. You're so used to having an assistant that you seem to have forgotten how to write. Don't fall into this trap--always take notes! Whenever you write as someone else talks, you illustrate that what they're saying is important. It's also a great way to slow someone down if he or she happens to be covering ground too quickly: "Oh, let's make sure I've got that right."

2. Failing to offer your undivided attention. "Go ahead--I'm listening. I've just got to sign these checks and make a quick call." At least 25 percent of the CEOs I interviewed were doing more than one thing while they were talking to me!

3. Flunking at feelings. You're so driven to succeed that you often fail to understand others' feelings, and it's difficult for you to empathize with the situations and emotions of other people. If you want to listen at the highest possible level, you must acknowledge the other person's feelings: "Wow, John, you really sound upset. I can tell that not getting that sale has really disappointed you."

4. Talking over people. When someone is asking a question, do you launch headfirst into your own response, often not even waiting for the person posing the question to finish? Do you have an overpowering need to be heard? An uncontrollable urge to be right? If so, you may have real difficulty listening. Give the person doing the talking the benefit of the doubt--don't judge.

Anthony Parinello is the author of Secrets of VITO: Think and Sell Like a CEO. For additional information on his speeches, Sales Success Kits and books, call (800) 777-VITO or visit

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