Have you ever asked a question during a conversation and everyone stopped and looked at you with exasperation? That’s when you realize the question had already been answered. The funny thing is, at one point you were listening. And if you tried, you could probably even repeat what they had said.

The world has a lot to learn about the difference between hearing and listening. Stephen R. Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” If you’re not guilty of this, then you are far ahead of the rest of us.

According to the US department of Labor Secretary’s commission on achieving necessary skills (SCANS), five competencies and three foundational skills that are essential for those entering the workforce were identified. Listening skills were among the foundation skills SCANS identified.

Here are five reasons why you need to be listening at work:

1. Teamwork and collaboration. Those who don’t truly listen miss out on the very meaning of teamwork and collaboration. It can be appealing to do a project or task on your own, hoping to get some recognition or reward. But if you feel you need to do something on your own to get recognition, perhaps your culture needs a revamp. The best ideas will come as your team not only listens to each other but to other departments, customers and people who have succeeded and failed.

2. Decrease conflict. When you take the time to listen, you move past words and can interpret meaning. Instead of getting frustrated with feedback someone gives you, truly listen. You’ll be able to move past your own self-consciousness and assume the best.

3. Think outside the box. When you consciously decide to listen by turning off your biases, you can get a different view point to a problem or task. Sometimes we get stuck thinking that there is only one way to do things. However, when we listen to others and use their experiences, we open ourselves up to a world of possibilities.

4. Save time. Listening is the first step to good communication. When you communicate as a team, you have less do-overs. You don’t have to go back and ask for more understanding.

5. Build friendships at work. With a more blurry line between work and life, we seek meaningful friendships. A 2013 survey of 2,223 business people found that 67 percent of people planned to stay in their jobs because of a “good relationship with co-workers.” People who have friends at work are often happier, more productive and stay at their jobs longer. However, no one wants to become friends with someone who never listens to them.

Alan Alda said, “Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.” This can make us vulnerable. However, it is through being vulnerable that we are able to progress as people. So next time someone tries telling you something, really listen. You will be surprised at how much you can learn.

Photo by  hobvias  sudoneighm/CC BY