Angela Brown


Topic #13 Listening Skills for Help Desk/Support Staff


Listening is probably one of the most important skills for success as a help desk specialist.


Through the normal course of a day, listening is used nearly twice as much as speaking, and four to five times as much as reading and writing (Rivers 1998).  Most people think they are good listeners but in reality, we listen effectively only 25% of the time (Judith Filek 1997).  So what are we doing the other 75% of the time? We are probably “zoned out” or thinking of something else.  In fact, most people only listen to the first three or four words of any sentence, instead of listening; they begin to formulate their response (Judith Filek 1997).  So how does one develop listening skills? Well, Judith Filek suggests these 12 simple tips:



  1. Make a conscious decision to listen.  Put your mind into the right framework.


  1. Take notes; doing so will force you to put aside what you are currently thinking.


  1. Paraphrase what you have heard the other person say.  People appreciate when you are trying to get it right.  This is particularly important when the other person is upset.


  1. Acknowledge the points you hear being verbalized.  Use statements such as, “I can see what you mean”.  People want you to feel their pain or inconvenience.


  1. If you are face-to-face, nod, lean forward, and maintain strong eye contact.


  1. If you are on the phone, remember it is harder to demonstrate that you are listening.  Use your voice to demonstrate concern and involvement.  Be sure to vary your pitch and inflection.  Monotones make people feel you are disinterested. Offer frequent acknowledgements.  If you are speaking to someone you don’t know, focus on a family member’s picture.  It will help you to personalize you conversation.



  1. Never interrupt.  When the other person is done speaking, take a two second breath, hold it for two seconds, and exhale slowly.  Then begin your response.


  1. When the other person is done speaking, frequently say just one word, “Oh.” Typically, he or she will continue to elaborate.  When they elaborate they will gain additional focus and you will gain additional information.


  1. Only schedule yourself for meetings with others when you energy is at its highest.  Before or after lunch is risky for all parties.


  1. If you know you are out of energy, tell the other person that now is not a good time.  In the end, the person will appreciate your honesty.  However, be sure to reschedule the conversation.


  1. If your job entails taking a lot of customer complaints, replenish your energy level.  Practice stress management.


  1. If necessary, when a conversation is over, keep a log of what was said, especially if more steps are involved.  Review the log before the next conversation or meeting.


            Listening is a critical skill in today’s workplace and the skill of listening is difficult to acquire because we rarely put forth the effort to do so.  Hopefully with a little time and patience you will be able to improve your listening skills.