Listening is one of the most important skills in communication. It’s the key to understanding what the other person is saying and getting their point of view.

But listening can be difficult. We often go off on our own thoughts, and we may not really pay attention to what the other person is saying. A popular 2005 movie stated that you should stay in the conversation, dreaming is for nightime, and stay in the moment. For those who have answered the call to 9-1-1, listening is a significant part of your job.

To improve your listening skills, try these tips: – Listen more than you talk. Avoid interrupting or thinking about what you’ll say next while the other person is talking. Just listen. This is fantastic advice for people in regards to their personal listening skills, but in 9-1-1 it is not possible to just let the caller talk.  What is important is to carefully listen to the words they use, and background noise, while still staying engaged in the conversation.   You’ll be surprised how much you can learn this way.  What about listening in the workplace?  Regardless of what level you are within the organization, listening is still critical – Suspend your judgment about the other person’s ideas. Don’t immediately reject new ideas just because you don’t agree with them. This will only make you more biased and less open to what they’re saying. Instead, keep an open mind and give their ideas a chance. Everyone in the organization, from the newest dispatcher to the director of the center, can benefit from being open to new ideas and listening to the plan with an open mind.   – Give and seek feedback. You can give feedback in a variety of ways, including body language, facial expressions, and nonverbal cues (you may be thinking, these don’t matter over the phone, but they do impact your tone and helpful attitude if any of these cues are negative in nature!). If you’re not sure how to give feedback, consult a friend or professional. Ask them how they perceive you as you listen to another person. – Be an active listener by focusing your attention on what’s being said. With practice, active listening will become second nature to you and you will be able to do it in any situation, on the phone, on the radio, and in person,  without thinking about it.

By improving your listening skills, you’ll be able to build stronger relationships, increase your call-taking and dispatch abilities,  and communicate more effectively.